Yi Jianlian will return to the NBA this season for the first time since the 2011/12 campaign, and while his one-year contract with the Lakers is mostly non-guaranteed and packed with incentives, the fact that it can be worth up to $8MM suggests the team believes the Chinese forward can be productive. For his part, Yi says he’s not worried about re-adjusting to the NBA after spending the last several seasons in China.
“I think I’ll have no problem with that,” Yi said, according to Baxter Holmes of ESPN.com. “I can do it.”
Of course, given Yi’s history, one could argue that it won’t be a matter of re-adjusting to the NBA — it’ll be a matter of simply adjusting, since his first stint stateside didn’t go all that well. After being selected sixth overall in the 2007 draft, the seven-footer played for four NBA teams in five seasons, averaging 7.9 PPG and 4.9 RPG with a shooting line of .404/.333/.780 in 272 career contests.
Still, Yi did show flashes of promise during his time in the NBA, averaging 12.0 PPG and 7.9 RPG with a .366 3PT% in 2009/10 for the Nets. As Holmes details, the 28-year-old believes that all of the experience he has gained playing in China for the last few seasons – and for the Chinese Olympic team – has helped him get stronger and more confident.
Yi will also face less pressure this time around, as a complementary veteran on a rebuilding club, rather than a top-10 pick viewed as the future of a franchise. According to Holmes, Yi viewed the timing as right for an NBA return, and said that joining the Lakers is a “good opportunity” for him.