As was reported Wednesday night, it looks like the Lakers are bringing 7’0″ power forward Yi Jianlian back to the NBA.
Nothing has been confirmed by the Lakers, but multiple reports out of China now say that the deal is done.
Marc Stein of ESPN (who broke the story) also had this statement from Guangdong Southern Tigers, Yi’s team in China.
“In order to help Yi seize this opportunity to play at the highest stage of [the basketball] world and unfold his capability, in order to help Yi fulfill his dream and goal, we are offering our unconditional support and cooperation to Yi to make sure he joins Lakers. Best wishes to Yi for his bright future in NBA,” Guangdong said in a translated statement.
Those financial figures seem to be low (which makes sense, Yi made $3 million in China, a veteran minimum deal would be a steep play cut). From Marc Stein:
Yi was the be best player on a weak Chinese team in Rio, averaging 20.4 points on 16.4 shots per game. Jianlian relied too much on the long two and never developed NBA three-point range in his five NBA seasons (the last one in 2012). He was then a below replacement level player.
The fit is a little odd — Yi is a 7’0″ power forward. The Lakers will start Julius Randle there, then both Brandon Ingram and Larry Nance could spend time there as small-ball fours. Maybe the Lakers see Yi as a solid reserve, and it is just a one-year deal, but they had better not be taking minutes away from developing their young players to get him run.