12:28pm: The Lakers have officially waived Yi, the team announced in a press release.
8:18am: The Lakers are currently carrying 17 players, meaning they need to make two more cuts before Monday’s regular-season roster deadline, and Yi Jianlian made one of those decisions easy. According to Marc Stein of ESPN.com, the Chinese forward has asked the Lakers to waive him, and the team will formally grant that request, waiving him in advance of today’s deadline.
As Stein details, Yi and his representatives would like the chance to pursue other opportunities after the role he envisioned in Los Angeles didn’t pan out. That could mean seeking an NBA job, but there’s a good chance the former sixth overall pick heads back overseas — he’d have better odds of earning a significant role back in China than he would with another NBA club. At this point it’s not clear which way he’s leaning, per Stein.
The contract Yi signed with the Lakers this offseason could have been worth as much as $8MM if he’d stuck with the team all season and appeared in at least 59 games. However, at this point it was only guaranteed for $250K. The rolling guarantees and incentives made it a very trade-friendly deal, which was why L.A. was believed to be leaning toward keeping Yi.
Instead, the Lakers figure to turn to Metta World Peace or Thomas Robinson for their 15th and final roster spot, with the other player joining Yi on the waiver wire. The team reportedly wouldn’t mind keeping World Peace as an assistant rather than as a player, but if he’s not willing to retire quite yet, perhaps L.A. will be using to use that final roster opening on him.
Still, as Tania Ganguli of The Los Angeles Times tweets, Robinson has “really impressed” the Lakers over the last few weeks, meaning he has a decent shot to win the roster battle. Robinson is nearly 12 years younger than World Peace, and – like Yi – was a high draft pick, having been selected fifth overall in 2012.