While a lockout fills pro basketball headlines in America, United States counterpart China has recently made a recovery from potential basketball disgrace. By winning the 2011 FIBA Asia tournament, reclaiming the title from Iran (winners of FIBA Asia in 2007 and 2009), their men’s national team has secured a spot in the 2012 Olympic games. Much of the thanks is due to the massive nation’s current basketball cover boy, and likely former Washington Wizard, Yi Jianlian.
In a country where the government hopes to manufacture basketball success by building a court in every village, making the cut to play in London was pretty important. The problem is the next step, competing with the best in the world; China has played men’s basketball in the past seven Olympics but has never finished better than eighth. And while he is now their star, Yi has done little to cure anxiousness for success.
Guan Weijia on SheridanHoops.com highlights the issue many Chinese have with Yi: “Fans are dissatisfied with his performance in the NBA, believing he is wasting his talent and playing too soft. Yi has many nicknames, none of which are complimentary.”
The Chinese national team was already smarting from the retirement of Yao Ming in July. In August they came up short at the Stankovic Cup, winning one game and losing seven at the China-hosted event. They lost three games to Russia, one to New Zealand, one to Australia, and won just one of three games against Angola. Worth noting, however, that the minutes of Yi were limited during the Stankovic. Bob Donewald, American coach of the Chinese national team, indicated that he wanted to bring him along gradually. Still, the masses were less than satisfied.