The Chinese National Team now has its full arsenal of players after Yi Jianlian became the final player to report in Beijing over the weekend. Yi had his first practice with the team on Monday in Beijing and will be with the team full-time from now until the London Olympics in August.
The seven foot forward/center, who played last season in the NBA for the Dallas Mavericks, has become the face of Team China since Yao Ming’s final game for the Chinese at the 2008 Beijing Olympics. At the 2010 World Championship in Turkey, Yi averaged 20.2 points and 10.2 rebounds as China was eliminated in the Round of 16. In 2011, he followed up his strong performance in Turkey with a superb showing at the FIBA Asia Championsihp, where he lead China to a gold medal and automatic qualification for London.
And if China is to have any shot of getting out of their group in the Olympics, Yi will once again have to come up huge. As the only Chinese player who is consistently able to get himself going in isolation sets, Ah Lian is without a doubt Bob Donewald’s most talented and most important player on the roster. Ensuring that he’s healthy and on the top of his game is the team’s biggest goal as they continue to prepare for their first game on July 28.
Yi is a free-agent and for the second year in a row, faces an uncertain future in the NBA. The Mavericks, who are poised at making a big splash this summer in free-agency, are highly unlikely to bring him back on a multi-year deal if at all, which means that he may have to find his fifth team in five six years. Speaking to Chinese media in May, Yi said that he’ll handle contract talks after the Olympics.
Yi played in 30 games for the Mavericks this season, averaging 2.6 points and 1.6 rebounds in 6.8 minutes.
China is preparing for six exhibition games in Jiangsu from June 22-29, where they’ll play games against Montenegro, Serbia and Croatia. They’ll then go to Guangzhou for the annual Stankovic Continental Cup against Tunisia, Russia and Australia, which will be held from July 6-10. According to Sina, the next round of cuts will be made after the team returns from Guangzhou.