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.)
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.
Nets’ Greivis Vasquez pulls out of Olympics for Venezuela
If you want to know what this means for the Venezuelan team heading into Rio, well, they shot just 23.9 percent in an 80-45 loss to Team USA Friday night in Chicago — and that was by far the USA’s worst performance in the exhibition run-up to the Rio Games.
Vasquez should be getting decent minutes off the bench behind Jeremy Lin in Brooklyn this season. They need him healthy as the team tries to move from “god awful” to just plain “not good” next season.
Report: Monty Williams to accept role on Spurs coaching staff next season
Monty Williams is one of the better assistant coaches in the NBA right now, and he was available (remember he understandably left Oklahoma City last season after the tragic death of his wife). He’s part of Mike Krzyzewski’s staff with USA Basketball this summer — watch him in practices at age 44 and he’s a better defender plenty of players in the league — and he wanted to get back on the bench.
Sources told ESPN that Williams — who left the Oklahoma City Thunder’s bench in February after the tragic death of his wife, Ingrid — has been urged by Spurs coach Gregg Popovich to take as much of a role with the organization as he feels comfortable for the 2016-17 campaign.
The specifics of what role Williams would fill and how much time he could commit have not yet been determined, but sources say San Antonio has opened the door to either a coaching and player-development role or a front-office position (or a hybrid), depending on what he prefers.
One source close to Williams told ESPN that the 44-year-old “absolutely” intends to be a head coach in the league again after his expected stint with the Spurs. The source also said numerous teams, including Oklahoma City, have made similar offers to Williams for next season.
Williams will get another shot in the big chair down the line. In the short term, this is a smart move — nothing looks better on a resume than “Spurs” around the league right now.
Team USA has sing-along on plane leaving Chicago. Well, except for ‘Melo.
Like “Stillwater” in Almost Famous, Team USA’s Jimmy Butler, Draymond Green and Kyrie Irving were leading a sing-along of Vanessa Carlton’s “A Thousand Miles” on the team plane out of Chicago to Houston for the USA’s final exhibition game. Hat tip Alysha Tsuji who pulled the snapchats.
How could you hate this team 😂 TEAM USA 🏀 singing A Thousand Miles on the plane: 🇺🇸🇺🇸🇺🇸🇺🇸🇺🇸
There were a lot of ugly things for Team USA in its exhibition win over Venezuela — the 4-of-25 shooting from three comes to mind. There was more, it was not a strong offensive performance from Team USA.
But like usual, we can overwhelm teams with athleticism, and that means wins and highlights. Like Kyle Lowry‘s tip-pass alley-oop to Jimmy Butler.