Yi Jianlian, the star Chinese center, is in advanced talks with the Los Angeles Lakers about a possible comeback to the NBA, per several reports.
Jianlian, drafted sixth overall by the Milwaukee Bucks in 2007, played for four teams over five NBA seasons before taking his talents to the Guangdong Southern Tigers in the Chinese Basketball Association.
During the ongoing Rio Olympics, the 7-footer has averaged an impressive 20.4 points and 6.6 rebounds for China over the course of five preliminary games.
Despite China’s failure to qualify for the knockout stages, several analysts in Rio have lauded Jianlian’s improved athleticism and vertical from the time he was last seen in the NBA.
During the 2014-15 CBA season, Jianlian averaged a career-high 27.7 points and 10.9 rebounds. He’s a four-time CBA champion, two-time Finals MVP and four-time domestic MVP.
Also Read: Team USA To Face Argentina In Rio Quarters
Yi Jianlian deal imminent
According to ESPN’s Mark Stein, “a deal is not yet done to secure Yi’s return to the NBA, but sources say talks are ongoing and that the Lakers are hopeful of adding him to the roster before training camp begins in late September.”
After a so-so rookie season with the Bucks, Yi Jianlian played for the New Jersey Nets, the Washington Wizards and the Dallas Mavericks before returning to China. During his stint with the Nets, Jianlian started a majority of games, averaging 12 points and 7.2 rebounds in 2009-10.
The Lakers already have a loaded frontcourt after signing Timofey Mozgov in free agency, besides drafting Ivica Zubac and re-signing Tarik Black in the offseason. With the addition of Yi Jianlian, Lakers coach Luke Walton would have plenty of options at the center rotation.
Los Angeles has nearly $9 million left in unspent cap room. Details of Jianlian’s deal haven’t been made available. But international exports are usually paid in the $3-4 million per year range.