Chinese superstar Yi Jianlian’s NBA comeback has ended before it even began.
Yesterday, Marc Stein of ESPN reported that Yi had asked the Los Angeles Lakers to release him from his contract, and the Lakers have now accepted Yi’s request:
OFFICIAL: The Lakers have waived Yi Jianlian
The roster now stands at 16.https://t.co/jyq00rG42S
— Los Angeles Lakers (@Lakers) October 24, 2016
Yi Jianlian was signed by the Lakers back in August on a minimum deal worth $1.14 million, though if Yi managed to reach certain incentives, that one-year deal would be worth up to $8 million. Being released before the season has even started, it doesn’t appear as though Yi will be able to reach those necessary benchmarks.
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. Instead, Yi will only receive $250,000 from the contract.
While the Lakers were presumably impressed by Yi’s standout performance in Rio, leading his team to an 0-5 record, along with his long-range shooting abilities and improved bulk since the last time he was in the NBA, Yi was never able find his place in the preseason, averaging just 3 points per game in 10.7 minutes while shooting only 16.7% from behind the arc. After being outplayed by Tarik Black, Ivika Zubac and former fellow NBA draft bust Thomas Robinson, Yi may be trying to save face by asking to be released before he was cut by the team.
— Los Angeles Lakers (@Lakers) August 23, 2016
Instead of playing a deep bench role on an interesting but awful Lakers team, Yi will happily return to China to once again star as the best Chinese player in the CBA and compete for a title with his Guangdong Southern Tigers.
While Chinese fans may be disappointed that Yi flopped out of the NBA so suddenly, they are also excited to see him playing back on the mainland once again.
Yi Jianlian was selected 6th overall by the Milwaukee Bucks back in the 2007 draft. A young 7-footer with range, a soft touch, global appeal and dominating post moves when matched up against a chair, the Bucks hoped that Yi would become their very own Yao Ming. Instead, “The Chairman” was traded to the New Jersey Nets following a promising, but injury-filled rookie season. Yi then bounced around from the Nets to the Washington Wizards to the Dallas Mavericks, never able to find his place in the NBA, before signing back in China with his Guangdong Southern Tigers in 2012.
His departure means that once again there will very likely be no China-born NBA players again this year. In June, both Zhou Qi (43rd) and Wang Zhelin (57th) were selected in the 2016 NBA Draft. Neither player impressed in Rio and neither player has been signed by their team yet (Houston Rockets and Memphis Grizzlies).
Anyway, enjoy some clips of the all too brief return of “The Chairman”:
Wilt. Kareem. Shaq. Yi. Where will Yi Jianlian go down in the pantheon of great Lakers’ big men?