It’s my favorite time of the year again; basketball season! Unfortunately for Yao Ming fans, Yao may be out the entire season due to having surgery on his broken left foot. However, besides watching the L.A. Lakers defend their title as the NBA champions, I’ll also be closely watching the progress of the New Jersey Nets – Yi Jianlian. Inevitably compared to Yao Ming, he’s been listed as the third ranked celebrity on Forbes Lists of celebrities in China. One major problem – He’s a totally different player than Yao. He’s a much more athletic player than Yao and scores in a variety of ways (including dunks), while playing as a PF. However, for the past two seasons in the NBA, Yi has seemed to be limited to mostly a jump shooter while also struggling to play in the post.
Also news controversies with Yi seems to be keep growing, which include questions over his age, finishing third amongst Eastern Conference forwards in All-Star Votes, and the possibility of Yi having to miss the start of his third NBA season to compete in China’s National games. Apparently Chinese officials went as far as pleading to the NBA’s commissioner, David Stern, for the Nets to honor a contract stipulation (from the rookie contract he signed with the Bucks) that would have released Yi Jianlian to go back and play in China. Yi had already competed this past summer for China at the 2009 FIBA Asia Championship, where China placed second. Fortunately for Yi, he will be staying to play in the NBA and he seems to have made improvements during the off-season. In his last three pre-season games, Yi’s averaging 17.0 points and 10.3 rebounds while shooting .475, twice posting 20-10 double-doubles and not attempting a three. His last pre-season game with the Nets, he ended with 22 points and 11 rebounds, and that was without the Net’s star player – Devin Harris, who definitely has noticed.
Some additional analysis on other Asian and Asian American basketball players, after the jump.
Hamed Haddadi, who helped lead his Iran team win in the 2009 FIBA Asia Championship over China, will be entering his second season with the Memphis Grizzlies. He apparently had demanded a trade, as he sees himself as a star and deserves more playing time.
Sun Yue, who was one of the lucky players to gain a championship by just being on the Lakers roster, was invited to training camp by the New York Knicks but eventually was waived.
As for college players, Jeremy Lin of Harvard will be entering his final season. He was recently listed as one of ESPN’s Most Versatile Players. Another player making news this off-season was Berkeley’s Zhaoxu “Max” Zhang. Max, who only played 15 games his Freshman season with Berkeley, was having strong performances at the World University Games this past summer averaging 18ppg, 17.3 rbg, and 5.6 bpg. But keep an eye out for other players looking for more playing time including Maryland’s Jin-Soo Choi (formerly Jin-Soo Kim, who at one point last season was declared academically ineligible but later reinstated) and 5’8 UCLA walk-on Spencer Soo. He may not be gaining any play time, but he can certainly dunk.