Yi Jianlian is back in the NBA, with the Los Angeles Lakers, after a four-year hiatus from the league. Following a five-year run in the NBA from 2007-2012, Jianlian returned to his native China and continued to improve on the court.
Now, he’s preparing to suit up for a rebuilding Lakers franchise still reeling from the retirement of the legendary Kobe Bryant. However, the Chinese Basketball Association standout, who is a four-time CBA champion, two-time Finals MVP, four-time Domestic MVP, and eight-time All-Star, is ready for the challenge.
“In the summertime, I have been talking to coach Luke [Walton], and we talk a lot, talk about the system and I can really fit [on] this team, and on this system,” Jianlian said to reporters on Friday at Lakers practice.
Jianlian, 28, has always been praised for his athleticism and scoring ability, something the American audience only got glimpses of during his NBA stint. In 272 career games split between the Milwaukee Bucks, New Jersey Nets, Washington Wizards, and Dallas Mavericks, the former sixth overall pick in the 2007 NBA Draft averaged 7.9 points and 4.9 assists per game.
However, those four years back in the CBA, as well as his performance in the 2016 Olympics showed that Jianlian is more than just another big body. He improved his outside shooting and he believes he can help expand the Lakers’ offence this season.
“I think I can still shoot the 3’s, space the floor,” Jianlian, who will wear No.11 with the Lakers said. “I’m cool with playing the four or five.”
His contract with the Lakers is for the veterans minimum of $1.39 million but can reach $8 million based on incentives – which will come from games played.
“I feel pressure,” Jianlian said. “But I feel excited about that.”
With some pricey offseason signings (Timofey Mozgov and Luol Deng), incumbent young talent (Julius Randle, Larry Nance Jr., and D’Angelo Russell), and this year’s second overall pick Brandon Ingram, the Lakers are not short on talent.
That excites Jianlian as he looks to make an impact.
“There’s a lot of talent there,” Yi said. “They will be great players and they are all working hard. Everyone is trying to win for the team. For myself, I’m ready and confident.”