Reading and calling bluffs is an important aspect of any poker tournament. You know the drill. Someone pushes all-in with a ten high only to have their opponent reveal pocket aces. Yes, bluffs are called all the time in poker. So why not in other sports?
Chinese center Yi Jianilan is attempting to force the Milwaukee Bucks, the team that selected him 6th overall in last month’s NBA Draft, to trade him before the upcoming season. It was well known prior to the draft that Yi’s representatives wanted him to go somewhere in California or a city with a high Chinese influence. Yi did not even work out for the Bucks during his pre-draft routine. G.M Larry Harris admitted he made the pick without actually seeing Yi play in person, going mostly on his father Del’s experience with Yi while coaching the Chinese Olympic team. In a somewhat shocking move, Milwaukee called the bluff by Yi and took him anyway, stating that they had no plans to trade him. Yi and his crew have been publicly upset with the Buck’s decision and now his Chinese Club have stated they will block him from going to the NBA if he is not traded.
Maybe I’m old-school, but I always assumed that the team picked a player, not the other way around. I find it pathetic when a player gets drafted by a team that may not be the best for him as far as marketing is concerned and forces his way out. I’m reminded of the disgusted look on Eli Manning’s face when the San Diego Chargers drafted him despite a similar bluff that he would not go. The Chargers traded him a little later to the Giants (wonder if Eli regrets that decision) and all was right with the world.
Now, I am not saying that I am against this practice as its natural for all teams to choose only the best players so as to increase its prospects and the Chargers have done the same but it should be done with a little dignity so that the team’s reputation does not come into question. In a sense, poker online is unfairly accuses of bluffing when it is indeed prevalent in all kinds of sports.
Who is Yi Jianilan anyway? All we really know about him is that he is a tall Chinese player that supposedly can make an impact on the NBA. How many times have we heard that before though? Yeah he performed well against the Americans during the Olympics. So what? He wouldn’t even work out against other players during his pre-draft workouts. How do we know, or more importantly the Bucks, if his game is going to translate to the NBA? If you are going to make a demand for what team you want to play for, you better be an established superstar already. Even if Yi turns out to be great, he hasn’t earned the right to tell the team that drafted him ‘No’ before he has played one minute in the NBA. What happened to a player just being grateful for being drafted?
Now, in all likelihood, the Bucks will trade Yi to a team he deems suitable while getting less than equal value in return. But just once when this type of situation arises I’d love to see the team sit on the player and force them to make a move. Could it backfire? Certainly. Yi could simply go back to China and play the rest of his career there. I feel like that is unlikely however, even though all indications say that is exactly what Yi would do. So what I do is call the bluff. Yi has pushed all-in, but is he holding pocket aces or a seven-deuce?
My read? Although Yi may holds aces, if the Bucks are willing to wait they might be able to hit a flush on the river. Yi could go play in China next season, but sooner rather than later I see him giving in and signing with the Bucks. But what do I know? I’m bad about calling bluffs.