So why did the Lakers take until March 6th to assign Sun Yue to their D-League?
For months it’s been obvious that he wasn’t going to get regular playing time on the team with the best record in the NBA, and for a player the Lakers brought over with an eye to the future, that wasn’t a great situation. Sun though, wanted to stay with the Lakers and learn in practice playing alongside the best players in the league, not dominate in the D-League.
That’s not all that was going on. Privately, team officials and Sun’s camp were worried how an assignment to the D-League would play in China. Would it be seen as a demotion? A loss of face? That Sun had somehow failed in his journey to the NBA?
He hadn’t of course. And there is plenty of precedent for NBA teams sending promising rookies to the D-League for extra PT, particularly during road-heavy portions of their schedules when practice time is scarce. But how does all of that translate into Chinese?
When the team finally made the call to assign him to the D-Fenders on Friday, there was quite a bit of thought put into the decision, and the tone of the press release.
Lakers coach Phil Jackson and teammates Derek Fisher and Trevor Ariza even made a point of showing up early to support Sun in the 3:30 p.m. game.
Afterwards I had a chance to speak with Sun’s agent Charles Bonsignore, who said that Chinese officials understand the decision to send Sun to the D-League and were OK with it.
“They understand that it’s an opportunity for him to get quality minutes since the team is going on a road trip and there isn’t a lot of time to practice,” Bonsignore said. “They’re OK with it.”