Tag Archives: Yi Jianlian

Is Yi Jianlian Misunderstood?

Photo by Wootang01 on Flickr

So this is David Thorpe on Yi Jianlian:

He’s perhaps the most misunderstood player I’ve ever encountered, someone who was not remotely “Americanized”, yet absolutely looked the part. Last year was probably the first season that he actually understood more than 25 percent of what his coaches were saying. This is why he had such a huge summer in the World Championships (China’s national team has an American coach), then played very solid defense in Washington for the first time in his NBA career. He’s still a freak athlete with great shooting range, and now that he can be a plus defender, he’s a sure bet to find solid rotation minutes for a playoff team that needs shooters and defenders.

Via Risers And Fallers In Player Rankings, 9/22/11

Have to admit, I did a double-take. I know Coach Thorpe is higher than most on Yi, but wow. Sure bet? Misunderstood? I know he’s different in the international game, but my understanding of Yi the NBA player is as follows: he’s a highly-skilled 7-footer but doesn’t play like a big man — he struggles to finish around the rim and doesn’t try to as often as you’d hope. After being told he was a shooter his entire life before arriving in the NBA, it’s understandable that he was initially about a thousand more times comfortable on the perimeter than he was on the inside. His problem as a rookie was that he wasn’t a consistent enough outside shooter to warrant staying perimeter-bound. And after four seasons, he still hasn’t improved his offensive production and hasn’t shown aggression like this against NBA competition.

When the lockout ends, Yi will be an unrestricted free agent. Based on his NBA numbers, he can likely be had for a fairly low price. A couple of weeks ago, I’d have said, “STAY AWAY!” but maybe just looking at his past production is giving us the wrong idea about his future. Perhaps we’ve all underestimated the culture shock, language barrier, and the pressure he’s felt from back home:

In past conversations with ESPN’s David Thorpe about Yi, who has also worked with Yi at his Pro Training Center in Florida, he likened the player to being the LeBron James of China… if the U.S. were four times in size. And the comparison works past both simply being supreme physical specimens for their countries. Like LeBron, and highlighted by Weijia’s piece [link added], both receive heavy doses of criticism, just or not, for failing to live up to great expectations.

Via China Still Searching For Yi, Basketball Success, 9/30/11

I’m thinking it was never the best idea to call Yi “the next Yao Ming.” Perhaps the large Chinese-American population in Washington isn’t great for him, either. He always had talent; perhaps explaining his struggles in the NBA is more complicated than “not consistent enough to play outside, not strong enough to play inside.” Maybe he’ll be more confident with a fresh start on a team that really wants to maximize his abilities. Maybe he’d look way better on defense if he had good defenders protecting him. Hell, maybe he was ready to break out last season if it wasn’t for the injury trouble. My instinct is to never bet on a huge improvement in a player’s fifth season, but Yi is a unique case. This is the kind of low-risk, high-reward signing that good teams should consider when they’re finally allowed to start talking to free agents.

NBA Free Agency 2010: Things Moving In The Shadows

The Nets organization is operating under the premise that the NBA Board of Governors will officially ratify Mikhail Prokhorov’s purchase of the team during All-Star Weekend in Dallas. Also that weekend, Prokhorov has his first planning meeting scheduled with CEO Brett Yormark and president Rod Thorn, according to an official who is not authorized to speak for the team.

via NJ Nets lose to Washington Wizards, 81-79, on last-second Earl Boykins shot | – New Jersey Nets Basketball – NJ.com.

The Russian Cuban is taking aim at controlling ops.

Now, let’s switch over to what some handsome young writer wrote over at FanHouse (quite brilliantly, I might add):

But the Nets are terrible! They’re the worst team in the league! They’re the team with the worst winning percentage. But they feature a good-to-great starting center in Brook Lopez, depth at guard in Chris Douglas-Roberts and Courtney Lee, and oh, yeah, another late first round draft pick from Dallas. So you’ve got a foundation, the best player in the draft, you’re moving in two years to the biggest market on earth, and all the money you can have to throw at James. James can love Cleveland all he wants, but that sounds like a very attractive offer. That’s before you bring the possibility of Wade joining him somewhere for less money. The Nets would be able to give both players, or James and another free agent (Chris Bosh, Amar’e Stoudemire) enough money to make a slight paycut not so horrid. Their new billionaire Russian owner certainly sounds like he’s willing to put the money forth to build a winner. They have Yi Jianlian to cash in on the Chinese market, which is huge.

via A “LeBron to New Jersey By Way of Wall’s Kentucky” Exercise — NBA FanHouse.

Think about all the factors we have coming together. The Chinese market. A team with enough to pay LeBron and another star. Depth. Superstar talent. The potential number one pick. A big move to the big city. An open coaching spot.  We’re looking at a confluence of forces that could reshape basketball.

It won’t happen, because, well, life’s not that cool. But I keep returning to how the league has reacted to the Pau Gasol trade. There’s this overwhelming sense of “Jesus, is this what it takes? Two mega-stars, two supporting stars and some great role support?” And if you’re LeBron/Wade, aren’t you looking at this and saying “If the old man can dominate like this with that kind of team, what could we do?” That’s why I think the possibility of them taking less money to play together is real. If Kobe can accomplish what he has with Pau Gasol, what can they do together? These guys have a very real sense of their legacy at their young age. As truly great as they are on their own, they have a better chance of being remembered as the best if they sacrifice money and ego in honor of something special.

New Jersey offers these guys what they want. It all. They want it all. Contention: I know they’ve lost a ton of games but you can’t look at their roster and say this is worse than the Pacers, Wolves, or Wizards. Upside, solid players in key positions, and reasonable contracts. No anchors. The biggest market. Endorsement and business opportunities to cover what they’d lose in salary. An easy division with Boston’s eventual slide. They could choose their coach (and conceivably their President of Basketball ops).

It’s such a special opportunity, but it’s simply unlikely to happen because of the number of moving parts. Nonetheless, I can’t say that I don’t see a pattern in the moves. Brooklyn. Prokhorov. Yi. Jay-Z. LeBron. Wall.