Yi Jianlian

Former Lottery Pick Yi Jianlian Announces Retirement

Chinese big man Yi Jianlian, the sixth overall pick in the 2007 NBA draft, has announced his retirement as a professional player, according to a China Global Television Network report.

“Time flies; in the blink of an eye, basketball has been by my side for 21 years,” Yi wrote as part of a larger statement on the social media site Webio. “After much contemplation, I have made the decision to officially bring my basketball career to a close.

“… Farewell is not the end, but rather a new beginning. I will cherish the memories of the past while continuing to move forward, embracing new chapters in my life. Goodbye, my beloved basketball.”

A seven-foot forward, Yi played for the Guangdong Southern Tigers in China from 2002-07 before entering the NBA draft. He was selected with the No. 6 pick by the Bucks and spent his rookie season in Milwaukee, despite a desire to play in a U.S. market with a larger Chinese community.

Following his rookie year, Yi was traded from Milwaukee to New Jersey in a deal that sent Richard Jefferson to the Bucks. He played for the Nets for two seasons from 2008-10, then spent one year in Washington and one in Dallas before returning to China, where he played for Guangdong from 2012-23.

Yi had another brief stint stateside in 2016, when he joined the Lakers for the preseason, but he was cut that fall when the regular season began. In 272 total NBA regular season appearances, the 35-year-old averaged 7.9 points and 4.9 rebounds in 22.2 minutes per game, with a shooting line of .404/.333/.780.

Although he didn’t have much success in the NBA, Yi has enjoyed a long, productive career in China, representing the national team in several international competitions and earning 12 All-Star berths in the Chinese Basketball Association. He also won six CBA titles with Guangdong, most recently in 2020, and was named the CBA Finals MVP three times.

Germany, Italy, Others Finalize World Cup Rosters

We’re just two days away from FIBA’s 2019 World Cup officially tipping off, and more national teams have officially set their 12-man rosters for the event, including a pair of countries whose squads will feature multiple NBA players.

Team Germany made its final cut this week, dropping Wizards youngster Isaac Bonga from its roster. Even without Bonga on the team, there are plenty of familiar faces for NBA fans — Dennis Schroder (Thunder), Daniel Theis (Celtics), and Maxi Kleber (Mavericks) will represent Germany in this year’s tournament.

The Italian national team, meanwhile, will be led by Thunder forward Danilo Gallinari and Spurs sharpshooter Marco Belinelli. Former NBA forward Gigi Datome and 2014 second-round pick Alessandro Gentile are also part of Italy’s squad.

Here are more details on teams that have established their 12-man World Cup rosters:

Lakers Waive Yi Jianlian At His Request

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.

Yi Jianlian Not Worried About Re-Adjusting To NBA

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.

Cap Notes: Yi, Lakers, Black, Mavs, Pacers

The Lakerscontract with Yi Jianlian is very team-friendly in its structure, and could make the Chinese big man a solid trade chip this season, writes Eric Pincus of Basketball Insiders. Although he has already provided a few details on Yi’s unorthodox contract, Pincus gets a little more specific in his latest piece, writing that the new Laker will earn $2.3MM incentive bonuses when he reaches 20 games played, 40 games, and 59 games.

Because those incentives are considered “likely,” Yi currently counts for $8MM against the salary cap, but he won’t receive his full salary unless he remains on an NBA roster beyond January 10, 2017, and appears in at least 59 games. If the former lottery pick fails to make an impact early on with the Lakers, he could be traded after December 15 and before his salary becomes guaranteed in January, since his cap hit would significantly outweigh the money owed to him, and he could easily be waived.

Here are a few more contract and cap notes from Pincus:

  • Tarik Black‘s new two-year deal with the Lakers is worth about $12.85MM in total, but the second year is fully non-guaranteed, tweets Pincus. Los Angeles will have to make a decision on Black’s 2017/18 salary by July 4 or three days before the end of the July moratorium, whichever happens later.
  • The Mavericks paid $3.2MM to the Pacers in last month’s Jeremy Evans trade, according to Pincus (Twitter link). Dallas had to dump Evans’ guaranteed $1,227,286 salary to create cap room for new, incoming players, and Indiana made a profit by agreeing to take him. Teams can send out a maximum of $3.5MM in trades during a league year, so Dallas used nearly all its trade cash in that move.
  • On the other end of the spectrum, the Trail Blazers sent just $75K to the Magic to acquire Shabazz Napier in July, per Pincus (Twitter link). Orlando no longer had use for Napier, so the team was willing to move him in exchange for the minimum amount of cash a team can receive a deal — $75K.

Contract Details: Terry, Bolomboy, Yi

More and more of the deals being signed by players with NBA teams as training camps approach will be non-guaranteed, minimum-salary pacts which essentially function as camp invites. However, there are still a handful of players getting a decent amount of guaranteed money in their newly-signed contracts. Eric Pincus of Basketball Insiders has updates on a few of those players, so let’s round up the details…

  • Jason Terry‘s one-year contract with the Bucks is a guaranteed, minimum-salary deal, according to Pincus (via Twitter). While the cap hit for Milwaukee will be just $980,431, Terry – who has more than 10 years of NBA experience – will earn the highest allowable minimum salary, worth $1,551,659.
  • Joel Bolomboy, the 52nd overall pick in this year’s draft, received a fully guaranteed first-year salary of $600K from the Jazz, and has half of his minimum second-year salary guaranteed as well, per Pincus (Twitter link). Utah’s cap flexibility allowed the team to sign the Weber State alum for more than the minimum and for three years; a $1MM+ commitment in guaranteed money suggests the club expects Bolomboy to be on its regular-season roster.
  • We passed along the general details of Yi Jianlian‘s unusual contract with the Lakers on Tuesday, but in a series of tweets, Pincus goes into more detail as he attempts to figure out exactly how the deal will work. Jianlian has nearly $7MM in likely incentives on his one-year deal, and Pincus believes those incentives will be tied to how many games the Chinese big man plays, with multiple checkpoints along the way.

Lakers Sign Yi Jianlian

AUGUST 23: Jianlian’s one-year deal is only guaranteed for $250K, but it counts for $8MM against the Lakers’ cap, according to Bobby Marks of The Vertical. The base salary, partially guaranteed for $250K, is worth the minimum ($1,139,123), while the deal features another $6,860,877 in likely incentives.Yi Jianlian vertical

AUGUST 22: The signing is official, the team announced.

AUGUST 17, 3:55pm: The proposed deal will pay Jianlian the veteran’s minimum, but incentives could push the total value upwards of $8MM, Mike Bresnahan of The Los Angeles Times tweets.

10:41am: The Lakers and Jianlian are finalizing a one-year deal that will pay him approximately $8MM, Stein tweets.

AUGUST 16: The Lakers and Yi Jianlian are in advanced talks to bring the big man to the NBA, sources tell Marc Stein of ESPN.com (Twitter link). Eric Pincus of the Los Angeles Times notes (Twitter link) that the Lakers had representatives at the Staples Center during USA’s exhibition game against China last month.

Yi was selected by the Bucks with the No. 6 overall pick in the 2007 NBA draft. After an up-and-down rookie season, he was traded to the Nets in a deal for Richard Jefferson. The 28-year-old last played in the NBA for the Mavericks during the 2011/12 season. He averaged 2.6 points and 1.6 rebounds in just 6.8 minutes per game.

The Lakers have 14 players under contract, as the team’s depth chart at Roster Resource indicates. Yi would have competition for minutes. However, if Timofey Mozgov‘s groin injury lingers, he could possibly end up starting a few games for Los Angeles should he sign.

Western Notes: Lakers, Jianlian, Singler

The Lakers have hired Jud Buechler, Brian Keefe and Theo Robertson as player development coaches, BA Turner of the Los Angeles Times tweets. Casey Owens has also been hired as an assistant coach/advance professional scout, while Will Scott has been named a video coordinator to round out Luke Walton’s staff. Brian Shaw, Jesse Mermuys and Mark Madsen had previously been named as assistants by Walton.

In other news around the Western Conference:

  • Veteran coach Del Harris believes Yi Jianlian’s second foray into the NBA will go much more smoothly than his first one, Kevin Wang of ESPN.com reports. Jianlian signed a one-year deal with the Lakers this week that could be worth as much as $8MM. Yi bounced around the league for five seasons before returning to China in 2012. Harris, who is familiar with Yi after coaching the Chinese national team, said Yi’s style of play fits Walton’s offensive scheme. “I think that is the right team for him,” Harris told Wang. “He should be able to play for them and will really fit the style Luke employed so well last year [with the Warriors].”
  • Mavs guard Deron Williams believes LeBron James solidified his legacy by winning a championship with the Cavaliers, he said in an NBC Radio interview that was excerpted by the Dallas Morning News. James formed a “super team” with the Heat but proved he could win it all with an arguable lesser cast, according to Williams. “He went back to a team that won – what? – 20 games before he got there, and took them to the Finals, and now they won a championship,” Williams said. “And if you take him off that team, I don’t know where they’d be, they’d still be a good team, but they wouldn’t be competing for a championship.”
  • Thunder small forward Kyle Singler is preparing himself for a much larger role in the wake of Kevin Durant’s decision to join the Warriors, Erik Horne of The Oklahoman writes. Singler got in the gym right after the season and worked out with the summer league team, Horne continues. “When I was trying to think about how I want to maximize my summer, my first thing I wanted to do was play as much basketball as possible,” Singler told Horne. Oklahoma City doesn’t have another small forward with Singler’s combination of size, length and shooting ability, making him a prime candidate to receive the bulk of Durant’s minutes, Horne adds.

Lakers Notes: Free Agents, Young, Mozgov, Ingram

Six players with NBA experience participated in the Lakers’ free agent mini-camp today, tweets Eric Pincus of Basketball Insiders. Attending the camp were Xavier HenryJeff Ayres, P.J. Hairston, Johnny O’Bryant, Orlando Johnson and Travis Wear. A swingman, Henry played 43 games for the Lakers during 2013/14, but was waived after just nine games the following season. Ayres is a six-year veteran center/power forward who played 16 games with the Clippers last season. Hairston, a swingman, has been in the league two years with the Hornets and Grizzlies. A power forward with two years of NBA experience, O’Bryant played 66 games for the Bucks last season but was waived in June. Johnson, a shooting guard, has four years of NBA experience and had brief stops last season with the Suns and Pelicans. Wear, a small forward, was out of the league last season after playing 61 games for the Knicks in 2014/15. “What we’re looking at here are known players,” GM Mitch Kupchak said in a video on the team’s website. “We do have roster spots open in terms of our team, but also we have roster spots open in terms of training camp.”

There’s more out of Los Angeles today:

  • It’s unlikely that Nick Young will be on the Lakers’ roster when the season starts, states Kevin Ding of Bleacher Report. Young recently expressed a desire to end his dispute with D’Angelo Russell, but Ding doesn’t believe he’ll get that opportunity. In a video on the Bleacher Report website, he says the Lakers have been trying to trade Young for a long time and will likely waive him if they can’t find a taker. He has two seasons and more than $11MM left on his contract. The league deadline for teams to use the stretch provision is August 31st.
  • Timofey Mozgov was able to participate in a full practice with his Russian team today after an injury scare last week, reports Mark Medina of The Los Angeles Times. Mozgov, who joined the Lakers on a four-year, $64MM deal last month, suffered a groin injury Friday and was forced to miss two tournament games. The Lakers said he reported no more pain after undergoing an MRI Saturday and has no more restrictions.
  • The Lakers held off on signing first-round pick Brandon Ingram and free agent center Tarik Black so they would have cap room for deals like the one today with Yi Jianlian, Medina tweets.

Lakers Sought Yi Jianlian

The Lakers made a recent run at former No. 6 overall pick Yi Jianlian, who’s been playing in his native China, a source tells international journalist David Pick (Twitter link). Pick’s tweet indicates that the Lakers were unsuccessful in luring Yi from the Guangdong Southern Tigers, with whom he reportedly signed a five-year, $16.1MM extension in June. The Lakers wouldn’t have been able to sign him at that point, since NBA teams can’t ink outside free agents between the end of the regular season at the start of July.

It’s unclear what level of interest the Lakers had in the 27-year-old who hasn’t appeared in the NBA since the 2011/12 season. He’s been putting up impressive numbers for Guangdong, having averaged 27.7 points and 10.9 rebounds in 37.2 minutes per game this past season. Still, the level of competition in China isn’t particularly high. Yi’s best NBA season came in 2009/10, when he put up 12.0 PPG and 7.2 RPG in 31.8 MPG for the Nets. The Bucks originally selected him in the 2007 draft but traded him to the Nets a year later. He also appeared in the league with the Wizards and Mavs.

It doesn’t appear as though the Lakers still have any plan to go after Yi, but if they did, they could offer him only the $2.814MM room exception, which limits the team to giving out no more than a two-year deal worth $5,754,630. The composition of the team’s regular season roster is still murky, with only 12 players possessing fully guaranteed deals.

Do you think we’ll ever see Yi Jianlian in the NBA again? Comment to let us know.