Yi Jianlian getting comfortable, with support from cheering section
The errant lob pass was headed out of bounds, but Yi Jianlian grabbed the ball just as it caromed off the padding on the side of the backboard. Yi gathered himself, dribbled closer to the basket then elevated toward the rim.
JaVale McGee jumped over at Yi to contest the dunk attempt, but McGee was probably surprised by what happened next. Yi jammed the ball over him with two hands and coolly ran to the other end of the floor to play defense.
It was an assertive move, hailed by an entire section of middle school tourists from Beijing, in town to watch a symphony performance. They fit Yi into their schedule and waved red Chinese flags and serenaded Yi after every play he made. And Yi made his fair share of plays as the Wizards concluded training camp on Sunday with a 40-minute scrimmage at George Mason's Patriot Center. He caught an alley-oop lob from Hudson and dunked, and repeatedly stepped out to knock down open jumpers all afternoon. He even added a blocked shot.
Afterward, Yi walked over to his cheering section to sign autographs and take pictures with his adoring fans.
"It feels great. I'm so happy. I'm very happy," Yi said about the supporters from his homeland.
Yi had been slow to find his groove after returning from his stellar performance as the leader of China at the FIBA world championships in Istanbul, where he missed a game and was slowed in the second half of another with a sore left Achilles' tendon. But after easing his way back, Yi is starting to get healthy and more comfortable with his surroundings.
"My foot feels pretty good. I don't have any problem," Yi said. "In the beginning [I felt fatigued], a little bit, but day by day, I'm getting better. My body feels great for the past week."
John Wall also took time to meet with Yi's Chinese cheering section after the game and pointed out how the 7-foot forward carried the black team offensively through the second and third periods of the scrimmage, when Yi scored 11 points and helped the black team maintain its lead. "He can pick and pop. He's one of those type of players, that if they try to trap you or blitz you, you can pass back to him," Wall said about Yi.
Coach Flip Saunders said he has noticed an improvement in Yi as training camp concluded, especially during the scrimmage. "I thought he played very good. The last two days, it's like he's gotten his legs underneath him, and with that, he's been a lot more lively shooting the ball, he's been a lot more lively rebounding, running the floor. He's big. You can play him and Dray together. I think we haven't had the opportunity to play a total big front line yet because Dray's been out, but you might be able to play all three of those big guys together."
| October 4, 2010; 10:58 AM ET
Categories: Yi Jianlian
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