It's only the document that determines pretty much everything that happens in the NBA.
Yet almost no one knows the collective bargaining agreement very well. Isn't that pathetic?
(I wish they'd offer a seminar on it, so that I could learn without having to find the time to actually read the thing cover to cover. Boooooooooooring. And if you want a job in the NBA? Master that document and get a law degree and you have a good shot. Tom Penn did it. Now he's assistant GM of the Blazers, and he reportedly got his start by studying the CBA.)
Anyway, I am waiting for some people who really know the CBA to call me back, but from what I can tell so far, Hank Worrell at the blog Winning the Turnover Battle is correct when he writes something that I haven't seen written anywhere else: If Yi Jianlian really doesn't want to play for the Bucks, he could sit out a year and be back in next year's draft.
In simple terms what the above sections say is that if Yi does not sign a contract with another pro team (Chinese or European) in the next year then Milwaukee will lose their rights to Yi and he will then be eligible for the 2008 Draft. Therefore, if Yi and his handlers truly are determined to keep Yi out of Milwaukee they could just have him play for the national team for a year and then re-enter the draft leaving the Bucks completely empty handed. I can assure you, coming out of the deepest draft in recent memory with nothing after having the #6 pick will not fly with Bucks' GM Larry Harris. If the Bucks are unable to sign Yi to a contract by the time the season starts they need to trade him. Plain and simple.
Click the link above to read quotes from the CBA that support Worrell's point.
UPDATE: Here's the key question: is Yi Jianlian still under contract with his Chinese club in Guangdong? A contract in another professional league would extend Milwaukee's hold over Yi indefinitely. Section Five of the CBA states:
If a player is drafted by a Team in either an Initial or Subsequent Draft and, during a period in which he may negotiate and sign a Player Contract with only the Team that drafted him, and either (x) is a party to a previously existing player contract with a professional basketball team not in the NBA that covers all or any part of the NBA Season immediately following said Initial or Subsequent Draft, or (y) signs such a player contract, then the following rules will apply ...
(I would quote more, but if you're that geared up for legalese, you might as well read the whole thing and then go run an NBA team.)
Larry Coon explains -- clearly the key point if the Guangdong contract.
UPDATE: The Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel's Charles F. Gardner reports (thanks Ben) Yi is under contract with the Guangdong Tigers:
Yi's representatives could elect to keep him in China for another season. His contract is owned by the Guangdong Tigers, and team owner Hai To Chan could elect not to release him.
As I understand the CBA, Yi would have to be out of that Guangdong contract for a full year before he could re-enter the draft.
UPDATE: No idea about the source, but (again, thanks Ben) this is an interesting discussion of who is involved in Yi's decision making.