[Yi Jianlian makes a nasty/tough game face during a game against the Ivory Coast.]
According to sources, the MRI results on the injured Achilles heel of Yi Jianlian have come back negative and he should be ready to play in China’s opening knock-out round game against Lithuania on Tuesday.
Yi aggravated his inflamed Achilles against Russia last Wednesday and was held out from China’s Group C finale against Turkey on Thursday. Wang ZhiZhi and Lui Wei were also held out of Thursday’s game by China’s American coach, Bob Donewald. Before the game, because of Puerto Rico’s loss to the Ivory Coast, China knew they would advance to the next stage regardless of the outcome against the Turks.
If you watched China in previous international competitions in comparison to this year’s FIBA Worlds, or if you’ve simply listened to the television commentators for this year’s games, it’s easy to conclude that this Chinese team has played with more energy and more overt emotion than ever in the past. Much of that can be attributed to the style of Donewald, from coaching flair to simply practicing his Chinese players less.
One could also likely gather Yi’s preference of Donewald over China’s previous international coach, Jonas Kazlauskas, who was an assistant to Del Harris on the Chinese national team in 2004 and head coach from 2005-2008. During China’s FIBA tournament opening loss against Greece on August 28, Yi made a point to glare in the direction of Kazlauskas after several made baskets. On one occasion, the coach waived Yi’s looks off with a gesture of his hand.
Donewald, however, has caught some heat in China for resting three of his top players in that game against Turkey. According to a Reuters report appearing in The Globe and Mail, Chinese message boards and comment forums lit up with criticism of the coach, feeling that resting starters was a bad decision, leading to what they consider to be a humiliating 87-40 loss to Turkey.
It just goes to show you that fans can be irrational in any country, any language. Donewald was right to rest his main players in an insignificant game. The match against Turkey was, after all, China’s third in a set and fifth game in six days. China may not have much of a chance against Lithuania (according to PinnacleSports, Lithuania is favored by 14 points), but it’s better to go in with healthy weapons. Plus, China has a young team. The extra opportunity some players got against Turkey could be invaluable for their development.
China will play Lithuania, who went 5-0 in group play, beating France, Lebanon, Spain, Canada and New Zealand, at 11 am (EST) on Tuesday. The game will be televised on NBA TV or should be available online on ESPN 3. Linas Kleiza leads Lithuania averaging 17.4 points per game, which is tied for sixth most in the tournament. The winner of China-Lithuania will face the winner of Argentina-Brazil, which will be played at 2 pm (EST) on Tuesday.