Drafted two weeks ago by the Bucks, Yi has declined to talk about the prospect of signing in Milwaukee. His agent, Dan Fegan, has pushed for a trade and wants Yi in a city with a large Asian influence; Yi's handlers did not allow the Bucks to watch him participate in a predraft workout in Los Angeles. But Bucks general manager Larry Harris said before the draft that he planned to take the best player available and told Fegan he would not shy away from Yi, even though Milwaukee has only about 1,200 Chinese residents.
"Fegan will hamper Yi's future," former national team coach Qian Chenghai was quoted as saying in Tuesday's edition of the state-run China Daily newspaper. "I don't think Yi refused to join the Bucks, it is Fegan who doesn't want him to join.
"We don't want to see Yi destroy his reputation in the NBA and return to the Chinese Basketball Association. That's horrible," the coach said.
Results of an online poll published in China Daily showed 68 percent of 9,000 respondents want Yi to play for the Bucks.
"Yi, stand up and speak for yourself," China Daily said, citing an article in the Beijing Evening Post. "Don't hesitate anymore and don't let anybody control your life."
Yi, the sixth player picked overall in the draft, Harris and Bucks coach Larry Krystkowiak met for about an hour at a hotel in Las Vegas, where Yi is playing in the NBA's Summer League, last Thursday to get to know the 6-foot-11 power forward and begin lobbying him to sign with the team.
Yi has not visited Milwaukee. In Dallas, where the Chinese National Team played a series of exhibitions last week, he declined to talk about the draft or even the prospect of playing for the Bucks.
In the meantime, Bucks owner and Sen. Herb Kohl has written a letter to Yi, which was delivered by Harris on Thursday, to establish a dialogue with the star.
"We'll see what happens," Kohl said last week. "We're all in the process of reaching out to try and establish a constructive dialogue with him and his family and representatives."