After Yi Jianlian’s dreadful performance in Madison Square Garden two weeks ago, there were legitimate reasons to be concerned about his ability to lead Team China. He missed open shots, he was unable to get comfortable in the post, and his lack of aggressiveness on both ends of the floor seemed to affect the way his teammates played. Luckily for Yi and China, the games were only exhibitions or “international friendlies”.
Saturday morning was China’s opening game in the FIBA tournament against Greece, and Yi demonstrated that he possessed a higher level of play for the games that counted. His first step was explosive and confident, he seemingly grabbed every rebound there was to be had (14 total, 10 defensive), and he played with an attitude that had been missing in his previous performances. In fact, after more than a few baskets, he defiantly glared at Greece’s coach (and former China coach) Jonas Kazlauskas.
Unfortunately, Yi’s 26 points and 14 rebounds were not enough to overcome China’s sloth-footed zone defense, and his team fell to a more experienced Greece, 89-81.
Sunday, Yi and his Chinese teammates took on a feisty Ivory Coast team in the second round, and while he didn’t look as aggressive and explosive as he had the day before, he still put up effective numbers (26 points, nine rebounds, two steals and one block). That performance was enough to lead China to an 83-73 victory, and it also gave me the opportunity to delve a bit deeper into this new version of Yi’s game. Read more »