China’s Yi Jianlian leaving NBA’s Lakers
The Los Angeles Lakers have waived Chinese forward Yi Jianlian at his request.
The 7-foot, 250-pound Yi had returned to the National Basketball Association last month after a four-year absence in an attempt to make the Lakers’ roster.
“Yi was productive in practices and games with us, and was a consummate professional both on and off the court,” Lakers General Manager Mitch Kupchak said in a statement.
“However, he felt that the minutes and opportunities he’d be afforded here were not in line with his goals and ambitions, and that he’d be better off in a different situation,” Kupchak said. “We appreciate his efforts and wish him great success as he goes forward with his career.”
Yi, 28, the sixth overall pick in the 2007 NBA Draft by the Milwaukee Bucks, averaged 3 points and 2.5 rebounds in 10.7 minutes per game in six appearances with the Lakers this preseason. Yi, born in Heshan, Guangdong province, once was touted as the next Yao Ming.
ESPN.com reported that the clear role Yi expected when he agreed to leave the Guangdong Southern Tigers in the Chinese Basketball Association, playing both power forward and center, didn’t materialize.
“In order to help Yi seize this opportunity to play at the highest stage of [the basketball] world and unfold his capability, in order to help Yi fulfill his dream and goal, we are offering our unconditional support and cooperation to Yi to make sure he joins Lakers. Best wishes to Yi for his bright future in NBA,” the Guangdong team had said in statement in August.
The Lakers had been pursuing Yi the past two off seasons. After his strong play for China in the Rio de Janeiro Olympics, where he averaged 20.4 points and 6.6 rebounds in five games, he was signed by the Lakers in August to a one-year deal worth $1.14 million. If Yi had managed to reach certain incentives, the deal could be worth as much as $8 million.
Shanghaist.com reported that according to the terms of the deal, Yi would have made an additional $2,286,959 for playing in his 20th game, his 40th game and his 59th game. Now, Yi will get only $250,000 from the contract, the website reported.
Yi’s departure will leave the NBA without any Chinese-born players this season, Shanghaist. com reported.
Zhou Qi and Wang Zhelin were selected in the 2016 NBA Draft at 43rd and 57th, respectively. Neither has been signed by their teams yet, the Houston Rockets and Memphis Grizzlies.
The Lakers also waived forward Anthony Brown, their second-round pick out of Stanford last year, on Monday and apparently kept Metta World Peace on their opening night roster. Thomas Robinson also has likely made the opening roster.
Yi Jianlian launches a free throw for the Los Angeles Lakers in a preseason game with the Denver Nuggets on Oct 7.