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Yi Jianlian, China, ousted from FIBA world championships

It's over. (AFP Photo/Aris Messinis)

There really wasn't much doubt that Yi Jianlian would take the floor for what likely was going to be China's last game in the FIBA world championships. His left Achilles' injury had improved after a few days' rest, he felt good after a light practice on Monday, and his team -- his nation -- needed its best player when it went against Lithuania, one of just three undefeated teams remaining in the tournament.

Yi scored 11 points and grabbed 12 rebounds in 35 minutes during China's 78-67 loss on Tuesday and lowered his head as he walked off the court. He was understandably disappointed, after he was held to just two field goal attempts in the second half, with Lithuania focused on shutting him down. China finished with just one victory in six games as Yi was unable to match the dominant performance of Linas Kleiza, a former All-Met player of the year from Montrose Christian, who led all scorers with 30 points and made several clutch baskets -- including one over Yi -- to secure the victory.

Yi had a block and a steal, and made a long jumper as China took an early 16-5 lead against Lithuania, and he also had a nifty spin move and dunk early in the second period. Lithuania took a 66-51 lead in the fourth quarter, but Yi helped his team rally back with a dunk and a critical rebound and dump off to Wang Zhizhi to cap an 11-1 run to bring China within five with five minutes remaining. But that's where the highlights ended for Yi.

"We tried to fight today," Yi said after the game. "That game was tough, between a very good team. We played very good in the beginning, but Lithuania played with emotion, played hard defense, very high quality offense. We made some mistakes, you know. With a good team, when you make some mistakes, it's tough to win."

China coach Bob Donewald told's Chris Sheridan after the game that another flareup in Yi's Achilles' limited his effectiveness in the second half.

But Yi could leave with a sense of accomplishment as he put together one of the better individual performances in Turkey, as he finished as the only player to average at least 20 points (20.2) and 10 rebounds (10.6). Yi heads back home to China on Wednesday to rest and recuperate for a week before coming to Washington.

It's been a while since I lived in the D.C. area, but if you need some tips on where to go .... (AFP Photo/Franck Fife)

This was a new role for Yi, who had to assume responsibility as a leader for a very young and inexperienced team that is still adjusting to life without Yao Ming. Donewald explained Yi's challenge in an interview with Kyle Weidie of Truth About It. Yi actually relished the role, taking the entire team out for dinner at a steakhouse in New York when the team trained there during the World Basketball Festival.

He proved to be up for the challenge, as he scored at least 24 points in each of the first three games of the tournament, playing with a confidence and aggression that he has rarely shown during an undistinguished NBA career. Yi played with anger and aggression and I confirmed that there was something behind his menacing glare toward the Greece bench after a dunk in China's opening loss. Greece is led by Jonas Kazlauskas, a Lithuanian who coached China through the 2008 Olympics and rode the team pretty hard with a hard-nosed, no-nonsense approach that grated on some.

Donewald, an American, gave his players much more freedom to express themselves on the floor, and that was apparent as the usually stoic Chinese celebrated dunks and big shots with chest-bumps and chest-thumps. Yi was partly behind the change in demeanor, as he represents the newer generation of Chinese players who have been influenced greatly by the American game and its often flashy stars.

It's hard to tell how Yi's performance will translate to the upcoming season, since he will not be featured with the Wizards as he was with China, which was not good enough to survive a sub-par performance from Yi. But if Yi arrives at training camp healthy, as expected, he should also come with much more confidence in his abilities. There are still flaws that he will have to overcome, and his defense still leaves much to be desired, but the Wizards shouldn't have any regrets about basically renting Yi's services for free for a year.

By Michael Lee  |  September 7, 2010; 6:04 PM ET
Categories:  Yi Jianlian  
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What can I say here to Yi?

I know, get used to losing.

Posted by: DC_MAN88 | September 7, 2010 8:15 PM | Report abuse

But my good man, did we actually count on Yi to do anything here?


Posted by: LarryInClintonMD | September 7, 2010 10:50 PM | Report abuse

I know, get used to losing.
Posted by: DC_MAN88 | September 7, 2010 8:15 PM |

You have taken it in the @ ss enough to know what it feels feels like right gimphole_88.

Posted by: Rocc00 | September 7, 2010 11:58 PM | Report abuse

Yi looked like he has asthma, better get Dr.Flip to diagnose him.

Posted by: divi3 | September 8, 2010 7:56 AM | Report abuse

I know it was the Worlds and not the NBA, but overall Yi seemed to battle in the paint much more then he's shown in his NBA career so far.

Just hope he doesn't have a chronic hammy that bugs him all year. I'd say the Wiz got a win, win, situation with Yi. They really have nothing invested in a one year tryout of a former lottery pick who's still very young.

If Yi just learns to be more aggressive he's got all the talent in the world. One thing about his coming to the Wizards, he's never played with a point that knows how to pump up his bigs like Wall does.

Wall will often turn down an easy attempt to spoon feed one of his big guys a dunk to get them going. I've seen few points that really seem to understand the mentality of those guys that have to battle down low for dominance in the paint.

When Wall runs a successful break, he often searches out the big fella that got the rebound to spring it to celebrate with. It's those little things that he does that pump up his bigs to play alongside him.

He really got McGee going in Summer League, lets hope he does the same with the rest of the bigs once they get to camp...

Posted by: flohrtv | September 8, 2010 8:56 AM | Report abuse

Will there be a Yi vs Seraphin competition for PT this year? I noticed a french reporter who covers Cholet expects Seraphin to play PF and not C.

Posted by: divi3 | September 8, 2010 9:20 AM | Report abuse

GM, I have to admit I haven't really paid any attention to Yi, so I can't and won't make assesments on his game.

But based on your info, hopefully Yi is strong enough to keep minutes at the center slot mostly to McGee and himself.

Having McGee perform good enough with adequate relief, Yi, to keep Blatche from having to play center would be a big plus.

Keeping Blatche out of the center position for me is a bigger key to overall success of the team than realized IMO.

For Blatche to do what he does and keep getting better at it without haveing to carry time at the center position is huge.

So lets hope that Yi helps stabilize the center position position along with McGee.


Posted by: LarryInClintonMD | September 8, 2010 10:17 AM | Report abuse

What can I say here to Yi?
I know, get used to losing.
Posted by: DC_MAN88

Thats just so mean and had no constructive criticism at all.

Posted by: jefferu | September 8, 2010 10:19 AM | Report abuse

But, on the other hand, is Yi and all the bigs we are bringing in not expected to play center?



Posted by: LarryInClintonMD | September 8, 2010 10:20 AM | Report abuse


Trust that Yi will not be playing much at the center position. I would hope the signing of Hilton Armstrong to prevent any need for that.

I'm hoping for about 32 minutes for Blatche at PF with the remainder for Yi. 30 minutes at C for McGee with the reminder for Seraphin. Armstrong is the third center who will likely get minutes as McGee and Seraphin are sure to rack up fouls.

I think Yi needs more minutes to develop and I hope he can catch some minutes at the 3 position. I know defensively he'll have a heck of a time keeping up with any SF, but imagine a zone with any combination of Yi, Blatche, Armstrong, Seraphin, McGee, and possibly Hamady N'diaye.

Posted by: DonnyB | September 8, 2010 11:34 AM | Report abuse

NBA Washington Wizards' forward Yi Jianlian will be leading the men's basketball team and has to bear the weight of the nation's expectations as the team attempts to defend the title.

There will be extra pressure on Yi, because Guangzhou is his hometown and the Guangdong South Tigers was the team where he developed his talent before being drafted by the Milwaukee Bucks in 2007.


Is Yi playing in the Asian Games?

Posted by: djnnnou | September 8, 2010 1:11 PM | Report abuse

Yi might get some minutes as a change of pace look at center. A guy that can use his jumper to pull an opposing center away from the rim.

DonnyB, In some ways using Yi at the 3 could be well be a good excuse to go to a zone. Flip used a zone with very good effect at Minny. So he could experiment with it again.

Posted by: flohrtv | September 8, 2010 1:19 PM | Report abuse

Yi & JWoww made the video game squad. JaTravel did not.

Posted by: prescrunk | September 8, 2010 2:48 PM | Report abuse

"You have taken it in the @ ss enough to know what it feels feels like right gimphole_88.

Posted by: Rocc00 | September 7, 2010 11:58 PM | Report abuse "

Don't mistaken me for yer daddy.

Posted by: DC_MAN88 | September 8, 2010 5:50 PM | Report abuse

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