Yi Jianlian joins Lakers in one-year deal

Chinese power forward Yi Jianlian, 28, has NBA career averages of 7.9 points and 4.9 rebounds per game.
Chinese power forward Yi Jianlian, 28, has NBA career averages of 7.9 points and 4.9 rebounds per game.

LOS ANGELES • Yi Jianlian, who was part of the China team that finished 12th at the Rio Olympics, has signed a contract with the Los Angeles Lakers, the National Basketball Association team announced on Monday.

The deal is for one year at the veteran's minimum of US$1.13 million (S$1.53 million) that could reach as high as US$8 million this season if he reaches several wide-ranging incentive bonuses .

The 28-year-old, who was drafted sixth overall by the Milwaukee Bucks in 2007, last played in the NBA for the Dallas Mavericks during the 2011-12 season. He has been playing in the Chinese Basketball Association league since then for Guangdong Hongyuan.

During the Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro, the power forward averaged 20.4 points, 6.6 rebounds and shot 46.7 per cent from three-point range in five games.

The 2.10m-tall, 110kg Yi averaged 7.9 points and 4.9 rebounds per game over the five years he played in the NBA. He also played for the New Jersey Nets and the Washington Wizards.

His international career includes winning three gold medals at the Asia Championships (2005, 2011, and 2015) and a gold at the 2006 Asian Games.

"We're excited to have a player of his worldwide accomplishments," said the Lakers' general manager Mitch Kupchak.

"We look forward to bringing him to training camp and hopefully having him make an impact on our team."

The Chinese joins a team who have been at or near the bottom of the NBA the past several seasons.

To compound their woes, the Lakers lost their star when Kobe Bryant retired at the end of last season.

Yi becomes the third Chinese player to compete in the NBA in the new season. Earlier in this year's NBA draft, young Chinese centres Zhou Qi, 20, and Wang Zhelin, 22, were selected by the Houston Rockets and the Memphis Grizzlies as the 43rd and 57th picks, respectively.

In June, Chinese businessman Jiang Lizhang, who runs a little-known Shanghai-based marketing firm, bought a five per cent stake in the Minnesota Timberwolves, becoming the NBA's first Chinese minority-owner.


A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on August 24, 2016, with the headline 'Yi Jianlian joins Lakers in one-year deal'. Subscribe