Kurt Helin

Associated Press

Yi Jianlian confident in return to NBA, but where does he play with Lakers?

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The Lakers — the organization, the players, everyone — is used to a media circus. It’s just part of the institution, from the Showtime era through the Kobe Bryant farewell tour.

So when more than 25 media members, national and international, show up for part of a Yi Jianlian workout in the offseason, it’s just another day at the office.

There was interest in Jianlian after he averaged 20.4 points per game in Rio as the focal point of the Chinese offense, he seemed a more mature player than the one who bounced around the NBA for five seasons after being taken by the Bucks at No. 6 in 2007. In his first stint in the NBA Jianlian never developed as hoped, but after four seasons playing in China he said he feels ready now, as reported by Baxter Holmes at ESPN.

He also said he felt that the Lakers were a “good opportunity” and that the “timing” was right for an NBA return.

“I think I played a lot of games in China, in Asia, Olympics,” said Yi, who joined the Lakers on a one-year deal worth about $8 million, according to ESPN’s Ramona Shelburne and Marc Stein. “It’s a lot of experience. For me I probably got stronger and more confidence.”

That one-year deal is about as Laker-friendly as it could get, and the $8 million figure would only kick in he played in 59 games with the team, meaning he was a regular part of the rotation.

It’s unclear if Jianlian would reach that in part because it’s unclear where he fits in with this roster.

Jianlian is a 7-foot power forward or center who can stretch the floor out to the three-point line (he shot 46.7 percent from the international arc in Rio). At the four, the Lakers will likely start Julius Randle or Larry Nance Jr., with rookie Brandon Ingram potentially getting some run there as the team tries to figure out exactly where he fits in Luke Walton’s system. At the five they are paying Timofey Mozgov to start and behind him there are Tarik Black and rookie Ivica Zubac. Maybe Jianlian can get some run as a small ball center. However, the Lakers should be focused on getting run for and developing their young players that are part of the future.

Luke Walton has a lot of frontcourt puzzle pieces to fit together, a lot of them younger players than the 28-year-old Jianlian, and it’s unclear what the picture will look like in the end.

But there is a lot of buzz about Jianlian and the chance he is getting.

 

Detroit Pistons sign Trey Freeman, Nikola Jovanovic to deals for training camp

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The Detroit Pistons have 14 guaranteed contracts set going into training camp at the end of the month. They could carry one more player into the season, but they may not (teams like having that room to make moves as needed). The Pistons are also pretty loaded at the center and point guard spots heading into camp.

But Trey Freeman and Nikola Jovanovic are going to get their chances, they have both signed training camp deals with the Pistons. Jovanovic, who was an undrafted big out of USC, confirmed his deal himself on Twitter.

Both of these guys are longshots to make the team.

At the five, the Pistons already have Andre Drummond, Aron Baynes, and Boban Marjanovic. That’s plenty of traditional bigs. At the four they have plenty of depth as well (Tobias Harris, Jon Leuer, and Henry Ellenson).

At the point, Reggie Jackson will get the bulk of minutes, with Ish Smith behind him. If the Pistons keep a third point guard on the roster (no guarantee), the smart money is on Ray McCallum. (As an aside, the Jackson trade rumors with the Sixers floating around the Web are preposterous and not happening. As in not being discussed.)

Dwyane Wade takes out billboard to thank fans in Miami

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Well done, Dwyane Wade.

This summer, after feeling lowballed and underappreciated by Heat management, Wade left the only professional team and city he had ever known to play for his hometown Chicago Bulls. But on his way out the door, he wanted to thank Heat fans, and did it with a billboard. (Mike Ryan, executive producer of the Dan Le Batard Ahow, was the first to post it that I saw.)

It was indeed classy. And classically Wade.

Report: Marc Gasol cleared for basketball in time for start of Grizzlies training camp

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When Marc Gasol went down with a broken foot last season, the Grizzlies dreams of a playoff run went down with him.

This season the Grizzlies are bringing “grit and grind” back with the re-signing of Mike Conley, and they are adding a pretty new face to it in the form of Chandler Parsons. The team has potential — but only if Gasol is the anchor in the middle.

On that front, good news for Grizzlies fans via Ronald Tillery of The Commercial Appeal.

Center Marc Gasol has been cleared to play after recovering from a broken right foot.

The 7-footer suffered the injury in February and subsequently missed playing for his native Spain in the Rio Olympics. However, Gasol recently returned to Memphis for strength and conditioning. Gasol is also playing pickup games, according to sources with knowledge of his progress. The Griz took a cautious approach to Gasol’s rehabilitation and are upbeat about his return to form on the basketball court, according to the sources.

This also is good news for anyone who likes to watch smart, well-played basketball.

Memphis is going to be an interesting team to watch this season. If healthy, if they can come together for new coach David Fizdale in a system that fits their needs, if Zach Randolph can outrun father time a little longer, this is a good and dangerous team in Memphis. But their margin for error (and injury) is small. At some point it feels like this team will take a couple of steps back, but that may not be this season.

Dirk Nowitzki says he’s taking retirement “year by year”

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Dirk Nowitzki has 50 million reasons to play two more years in the NBA before hanging it up.

The big German who has been the cornerstone of the Dallas Mavericks for 18 seasons signed a two-year deal to stay in Dallas this summer for more money than he requested. Mark Cuban wanted to show loyalty to the man who has shown great loyalty to him.

But is Nowitzki, now 38, going to play both seasons of that deal? He hasn’t decided yet, something he told the media Thursday, as reported by TodaysFastBreak.com.

“I always said I wanted to kind of take it year-by-year. Signing a two-year deal doesn’t mean I necessarily have to play those two years. I think we’ll see how next year goes, how the body responds and then we’ll make that decision again next year,” Nowitzki said. “But obviously, I would love to play the next two years and then just see how it goes.”

Nowitzki still brings plenty to the table. Last season he averaged 18.3 points and 6.5 rebounds a game, and he still spaces the floor as well as any big in the game — 59 percent of his shots came from 16 feet or farther out, and he hit an impressive 46.1 percent on long twos and 36.8 percent from three.

While he says he’s not sure about the 2017-18 season, I say $25 million is a big motivation to play out this contract. If he’s healthy, he’ll be there.

This is a Mavericks team that is transitioning, Harrison Barnes was brought in from Golden State and will be given the chance to be the man. Andrew Bogut will be anchoring the paint, Wesley Matthews will be back at the two. This is a pretty good team now — one that should battle for a playoff spot in the West — while laying groundwork for future years.

But don’t think the Dirk Nowitzki era is over in Dallas quite yet.