I know we're all used to having gentle fun with Sun Yue here at RU - and not really with Sun himself, more with the D-League's incessant hyping of him, and how he was always included in the Futurecast headlines. But I have a relatively serious question - what happens now that Sun was cut by the Lakers?
Over at TrueHoop last week, Henry Abbott examined whether the NBA will take a financial hit due to Yao Ming being out for the season. Yao basically is the reason the NBA is popular in that country, and the league's success in China is tied up in whether or not he plays. I wonder if one could say similar things about Sun Yue and the D-League. Certainly Sun isn't as large a presence for the D-League, but he also brings in a lot of web hits for Futurecast and the D-League website (or at least the league things he does/will). Even beyond China, Sun really has been the most prominent "international" player I can think of who's spent an extended period of time there (meaning a player not from the US who also didn't attend an American college), at least in the last few seasons, and who the league has gone out of its way to market as such. Ian Mahinmi comes to mind for San Antonio/Austin, but as far as I know the D-League hasn't been using his presence to try to enlarge its French audience.
Why should we, the D-League fans care? If we assume that Sun Yue really does bring in more Chinese Futurecast viewers, then those increased hits (which, even if they're not Yao-level numbers, just being proportional would be substantial, I would think) mean the D-League can charge more for ad space. Without Sun popping up in the D-League a few times a season, though, that money goes away. The fact that the NBA charged money for the Vegas Summer League online stream made me start to wonder just what is Futurecast's, uh, future. Dan Reed and the league (and the individual teams) have done a pretty good job of making the league and the players accessible to fans, but the argument for why the Summer League webcast cost money - that there are people devoting time and effort to the games who deserve to be compensated - applies to the D-League games as well. I certainly hope that Futurecast won't cost money down the road, but Given The Current Economic Climate I also wouldn't be completely shocked to see it. If people were willing to pay money to watch Wink Adams, they should be willing to pay to watch Will Conroy. And while every team theoretically could pitch the fee as getting to watch your team's developing players, that would be especially true for the teams that own or run their own affiliate. This may be connecting two unrelated dots, and Futurecast fees may come regardless of whether Sun is on it or not, but I wonder if having Sun Yue show up in the D-League means that any financial squeeze that would lead to charging for the webcast would be delayed somewhat.
The folks at Golden State of Mind are discussing whether the Warriors should sign Sun for next year. Personally I think that would be a good situation for pretty much everyone involved, assuming he gets sent down to the D-League at some point, because a.) there's a large Chinese-American population in and around Oakland; b.) there's also a large Chinese-American population in and around LA, which is even closer to Bakersfield, the Warriors affiliate; c.) both of those facts not only might make Sun happy, but would maybe mean more fans showing up or paying for Bakersfield games, which would hopefully keep that team okay financially.
So what do you think? Am I making too much of a mediocre (to be generous) player being cut, or does the D-League really have a stake in Sun Yue landing with another NBA team?