The Los Angeles Lakers did not make a huge splash in free agency this after failed attempts to sign big-name free agents this summer. Instead of signing superstars, the Lakers made cheaper moves but could turn out to be good signings for next season.
The Lakers drew flak for signing Timofey Mozgov to a lucrative four-year deal but earned praises for acquiring Luol Deng. Just as their fans thought that the Lakers are done making moves, their front office struck a deal with Chinese superstar Yi Jianlian, ESPN first reported.
The ‘Next Yao Ming’ In Hollywood
Yi was touted as the next Yao Ming, arguably the biggest basketball superstar China has produced. However, the 28-year-old failed to live up to expectations during his first run in the league.
The Chinese superstar forward was selected sixth overall during the 2007 NBA Draft. He averaged 8.6 points and 5.2 rebounds during his rookie season with the Milwaukee Bucks before he traded to the New Jersey Nets the following season.
Yi posted almost the same numbers during his sophomore season then had a breakout year in 2009, when he averaged 12.0 points and 7.2 rebounds for New Jersey. However, his career suddenly went on a downward trajectory during his final two years in the league — in Washington in 2011 and Dallas in 2012.
With no attractive offers from NBA teams, Yi decided to return to China. He played for the Guangdong Southern Tigers and for the Chinese national basketball team in recent years.
Big Games In Rio Lead To NBA Comeback For Yi Jianlian
Chinese news outlet Xinhua that Yi has already agreed to a one-year contract worth $8.5 million. It is quite a huge deal for a player who has been out of the league for the past four seasons.
However, the Lakers had a good basis in offering the deal. Yi played well in the 2016 Rio Olympics. His team ended up winless in five games but he made a good account of himself, averaging 20.4 points and 6.6 rebounds for China.