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Yi Jianlian, China
From NBA Insider: ...Several top draft prospects are working out in Los Angeles, including Joakim Noah and Corey Brewer of Florida and homegrown star Nick Young of USC. But for the past four days in L.A., as I traveled from gym to gym, the chatter wasn't about two Gators or a Trojan.
Yi, who has been living in L.A. for the past month, has been making the rounds and earning awe and respect everywhere he goes.
"Have you seen the Yi kid yet?" Young's trainer Don MacLean said after I watched him work out Young and Jason Smith on Saturday. "That kid was amazing."
"The dude can play," Young chimed in. Then, with a wide grin, he proudly declared he had dunked on Yi in a workout. "When you see him play, you'll know how impressive that is."
At the Home Depot Center, trainer Joe Abunassar interrupted a discussion of the players he's training to say, "Wait until you see Yi. There isn't a drill I could come up with that Yi couldn't excel at."
After a brief warm-up, Yi began his shooting drills. He rarely missed. He got great elevation on his picture-perfect jump shot -- high release, elbow in, nothing but net from both inside and outside the 3-point line.
Nevada's Nick Fazekas, a draft prospect known for his shooting stroke, followed suit on the set shots, but started to lose ground to Yi once the players moved to shooting off the dribble. For Fazekas, the accuracy started to waver a bit. The needle didn't move for Yi.
Yi handled the ballhandling drills with the same aplomb. He got low to the ground, showing impressive balance and control on spin moves to the basket.
Fazekas could do some of that too, but at a pace far slower than Yi. (Joakim) Noah kept up the pace with Yi, but without the consistency. Noah was all over the place, for both the good and the bad.
None of this came as a shock, given the basketball system in China. Yao likewise showed an amazing set of fundamental skills when he crossed the Pacific. Since he was 15 years old, said Yi, he's been put through five-hour daily practice sessions.
Noah, in contrast, said he taught himself how to shoot and never really knew there was anything funny about his shot until he exploded onto the scene as a sophomore at Florida.
As we saw again in the playoffs this year, for all his skill, Yao Ming lacks NBA speed, agility and explosiveness. Yi, on the other hand, is reputed to be a good athlete -- fast and bouncy. But until now, that rep has been based primarily on what he's shown against lesser players in China.
So what's he got? One way to find out was to see him next to Noah, a very athletic big man. Could Yi keep up?
It didn't take long to get the answer. After the shooting drills were over, Yi, Fazekas and Noah went through a drill in which they took the ball at the top of the key, cut right or left, were given one dribble and then had to finish around the basket.
While Fazekas labored to get to the rim from that distance, Noah had no problem, as expected. He finished every time with either a finger roll at the rim or a dunk.
Yi's performance was more surprising. I had to change angles to make sure it wasn't an optical illusion. As Yi finished at the rim, his elbow was often at or just below the rim... continue reading
Name: Yi Jianlian (Ee JianLian)
Position: Center/Power Forward
Origin: Shenzhen, Guangdong, China
Schools: The Athlete's School of Shen Zhen City, Guangdong University of Industry
Languages: Chinese (Mandarin), English
Teams (Jersey): Chinese National Team, Guangdong Tigers
IBN Notes: The next Yao Ming? Not likely. The comparison is only accurate in that they're both tall and hail from China. Other than that "similarity" Yao and Yi cannot be more different.
Yi is an aggressive, athletic big man with an inconsistent jumpshot -- and speaks English well enough to conduct interviews. And unlike Yao Ming who brought his parents over to help his transition, Yi is already well-adapted to the Western style of dress, music and culture.
As far as his style of play goes, I would liken
Jianlian to a poor-man's Amare Stoudemire circa
Stoudemire's rookie year -- aggressive to the hoop, tries to dunk it every time,
inconsistent jumpshot, a bit turnover prone, and full of potential.
Discuss Yi Jianlian
As of 2007, Yi is listed as 19 years old. However, he may be 21, and others say he's even older. There's an ongoing debate about what Yi's true age is, because there was a time when his birth year was listed as 1985 and then later he was being listed as 1987.
Yi is already a client of Nike, contracted to help sell Nikes in China (and in the US when he gets here)
|Yi Jianlian Links From our forum: NBA Insider Yi Jianlian Article, Yi Jian Lian Targeted by NBA Teams, Yi Jianlian Given Permission to Join 2007 NBA Draft, NBA Prospect Yi JianLian China Basketball Forum Article(s): Whats Next? The Next Yao Ming? (TIME, 2003)|