Yi Jianlian, a solid player but pretty pedestrian scorer by NBA standards, is taking on a new and very difficult role this summer — team star and leader.
He is the big name on the Chinese national team heading into the World Championships in Turkey. It’s been tough going recently, with China struggling in scrimmages against the USA than Yi going 3 for 15 from the floor — with plenty of good looks — in a loss to Puerto Rico.
Come the fall, Yi will be in another new role. In a Wizards uniform for the first time, he will be trying to find his place on a team in the middle of a transition. A team with a new star and an overhauled roster. We told you before that Yi was working out with David Thorpe — who is a fantastic trainer (Joakim Noah, Corey Brewer and countless others) and keeps telling anyone who asks he expects a breakout year from Yi. (Thorpe is also a really big promoter of his guys, so take a grain of salt with that.)
But Thorpe’s comments to Michael Lee of the Washington Post about how to use Yi was interesting:
He said that he hopes the Wizards use Yi similar to way Rashard Lewis is utilized in Orlando, as a player to spread the floor for Wall on his drives to the basket.
Washington will have the blur that is John Wall pushing the pace and big men running to the rim in Andray Blatche and JaVale McGee. They do need a stretch four, and maybe Yi can be that guy. He shot 36.6 percent from three last season and has gotten better from beyond the arc every season. If used like Lewis, he should get good looks.
It’s a big if. Who knows how it will go down in Washington next year, the team will be a bit of an experiment at first. Yi will be trying on a new role, like he has this summer. But while he may not be able to lead a team now, but he may find a breakout role this fall.