Yi Jianlian will carry China’s national flag in Olympic Opening Ceremonies

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They’ve got 1.3 billion people and they choose Yi Jianlian?

Yes. Apparently so. Reports out of China say that the washout NBA player will carry China’s national flag into the Opening Ceremonies of the London Olympics Friday night. (Thanks to Dan Devine at Ball Don’t Lie for finding this.)

This news leaks a day after a Chinese official said the flag bearer would be “tall, handsome and famous.” Yi certainly is tall (7’0”). Handsome is eye of the beholder stuff.

For NBA fans this is stunning because Yi has never lived up to his status as the No. 6 pick overall, or of being the next star out of China, even though he has shown flashes of talent. Last season he was playing on a minimum deal in Dallas and only got off the bench in garbage time. Right no he is an unrestricted free agent drawing little interest.

But his fame in China should not be questioned. A couple years back I had a long conversation with David Thorpe (Executive Director of the Pro Training Center and ESPN.com analyst) when he was working with Yi and he was stunned by the popularity Yi had, with Chinese media and fans following him. Thorpe also thought Yi was very athletic and talented, if he could just mold that into the NBA style of play.

He hasn’t. Which is why this still seems odd. Yao Ming carried the flag at the Beijing games and that made a lot of sense, he was an elite player and was wildly popular around the globe. Pau Gasol is carrying the Spanish flag and he is a two-time NBA champion, four-time NBA All-Star, Rookie of the Year, decorated international player and the best hoopster Spain has ever produced. And he’s leading a team with serious medal hopes heading into London.

Yi? Well, he’s got the gig, no matter if we all roll our eyes or not.

Final minute of Celtics-Wizards featured five-possession, 10-point, no-stoppage stretch (video)

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Crunch time of a close NBA game is awesome.

It’s exponentially better when nobody calls timeout.

The Celtics and Wizards finished with a flourish tonight, Boston coming out ahead in a frenetic final minute. The last minute included two Kyrie Irving 3-pointers (one tightly contested, one extremely deep) and a sharp drive by John Wall (who had just returned to the game from an injury).

After a flow-killing foul in the final few seconds, the Celtics won, 130-25.

More games should be like this.

Jeremy Lamb hits game-winner despite Bismack Biyombo, others Hornets prematurely running on court to celebrate

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The Hornets sure were excited for Jeremy Lamb‘s game-winner against the Pistons tonight.

Too excited.

After Lamb hit a jumper to put Charlotte up two with 0.3 seconds left, several Hornets ran onto the court. Bismack Biyombo was nearly at halfcourt as Detroit tried to inbound! He was so far onto the court, I’m not even sure officials noticed him when dinging Malik Monk – closer to the bench –for the violation.

Ashley Holder:

The Pistons made a technical free throw to cut their deficit to one, but they still had to inbound from under their own basket. Their desperation pass was intercepted, and Charlotte held on for a 108-107 win.

Several Hornets were certainly relieved.

Crazily enough, this isn’t the first time we’ve seen this.

Suns’ T.J. Warren fined $15k for inappropriate language toward official following ejection (video)

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Everyone on the Suns seems frustrated.

In Phoenix’s loss to the Clippers on Monday, T.J. Warren got ejected. And his outburst will cost him extra.

NBA release:

Phoenix Suns forward T.J. Warren has been fined $15,000 for directing inappropriate language toward a game official following his ejection, it was announced today by Kiki VanDeWeghe, Executive Vice President, Basketball Operations.

This wasn’t a lengthy exchange. Warren didn’t linger on the court complaining. He must have said something extremely harsh to warrant two technical fouls and a fine that quickly.

(Despite confusion, the foul preceding the ejection was called on Deandre Ayton, not Warren.)

Pacers star Victor Oladipo returns from 11-game absence

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When the Pacers ruled Victor Oladipo out indefinitely a couple weeks ago, it seemed gloomy.

But Indiana weathered the storm, going 7-4 without its best player.

Now, Oladipo is back. He started against the Bucks tonight.

I still think the Raptors, Celtics, 76ers and Bucks will comprise the Eastern Conference’s top tier by the end of the season. But the Pacers (17-10, fourth in East) have a chance to crash the party. They acquitted themselves well without Oladipo, and it should get only easier with their offensive focal point/top perimeter defender.