Yi Signs in China, But Can Leave Whenever He Wants

The Chinese Basketball Association has allowed its teams to sign locked-out NBA players only if they are both free agents and willing to commit to playing out the entire CBA season in China. So JR Smith, Kenyon Martin, and Wilson Chandler have all agreed to play in China this upcoming season regardless of when the NBA figures things out and starts their season back up again.

If those guys were born in China, maybe it would be different for them, because it is for Yi Jianlian.

Fresh off of leading China into the London Olympics as the MVP of the FIBA Asian Games this past summer, Yi has agreed to head back in China and play for the team he was on prior to being selected 6th overall by the Milwaukee Bucks in 2007.  But unlike Smith, Martin, and Chandler, he can leave whenever David Stern and Derek Fisher pinkie swear that everything they talked about is a deal.

This from Michael Lee of the Washington Post:

“Jarinn Akana, one of Yi’s representatives, confirmed that his client has signed a contract with the Guangdong Southern Tigers of the Chinese Basketball Association which will have an NBA out for whenever the labor dispute is settled.

Akana explained in a telephone interview that since Yi is a Chinese national, the CBA and the Southern Tigers have both afforded him the privilege of leaving whenever he signs another deal in the NBA.”

Since he is a Chinese national may be a nicer way of saying, since fans in China will be way, way, way more excited to watch Yi play than they would be for Wilson Chandler, the CBA allowed Yi to do whatever he wanted so long as he showed back up for a little while.  No offense to Wilson Chandler.

Lee’s article went on to say that after Yi averaged 6 points and 5 rebounds in 66 games last season for the Wizards, his camp felt like the familiar settings provided by the opportunity to play with the Tigers again could be beneficial for his development too.

“Akana felt that it was best for Yi to continue his progress by playing in a familiar competitive environment, rather than work out in America until the lockout ends. “Yi is still improving and working on his game. Of course, like all young players, you need to keep playing to develop. If not, you lose that development time,” he said. “All players know, sitting idle doesn’t help.”

Yi is a native of Heshin, Guangdong, and played for the Southern Tigers from 2002-2007, reaching four CBA all-star teams and winning four consecutive championships before the Milwaukee Bucks selected him sixth overall. In four seasons with Milwaukee, New Jersey and the Wizards, Yi averages 8.6 points and 5.3 rebounds.

“Although he may not stay with us very long, I am quite sure his return is good for himself, the team and Chinese fans as well, “ Guangdong Hongyuan’s team manager Liu Hongjiang told the Chinese news agency, Xinhua. “He could keep his edge in CBA, our team will also benefit from his skills and fans certainly want to see him play at his best years.”’

It certainly makes a whole lot of sense for Yi to make this move, and hopefully it can serve as a springboard of sorts for his NBA career that really hasn’t gotten off the ground yet.  For some reason I will never forget ESPN’s Fran Fraschilla calling Yi “The Hip Hop version of Yao Ming” on draft night back when the Bucks selected him 6th, and while I still have no idea exactly what that means, I feel safe in assuming that eight points per game is not it.  

Photo: CRI English.com

About Brendan Bowers

I am the founding editor of StepienRules.com. I am also a content strategist and social media manager with Electronic Merchant Systems in Cleveland. My work has been published in SLAM Magazine, KICKS Magazine, The Locker Room Magazine, Cleveland.com, BleacherReport.com, InsideFacebook.com and elsewhere. I've also written a lot of articles that have been published here.