No Chinese in NBA as Yi returns to CBA

Updated: 2012-09-25 01:49

By Sun Xiaochen (China Daily)

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Guangdong Southern Tigers lure national star back to town after poor season in Dallas

After opening last season in the Chinese Basketball Association with his home club, the Guangdong Southern Tigers, during the NBA lockout, the backbone of the Chinese national team, Yi Jianlian, will return to play in the domestic league again for the entire 2012-2013 season.

"Playing basketball is always the most important thing for me — anywhere on any stage," Yi said on his micro-blog after flying to Beijing from New York on Saturday. "It's been part of my life. I am really looking forward to the new season at home," he said.

Guangdong’s General Manager Liu Hongjiang confirmed Yi's return to the club on its official website on Sunday, stressing it’s a whole-season commitment without an opt-out clause this time.

"We talked about the possibility to return in May and he almost accepted our offer at that time," Liu said.

"It’s a huge pity to spend his prime years on the bench in the NBA without being trusted. He wants to play and we can provide an ideal stage at home. That’s the deal."

Yi played 30 games for the Dallas Mavericks, his fourth NBA team, last season after returning to the US following the end of the lockout. The 2007 lottery pick averaged 2.6 points and 1.6 rebounds; the worst stat line of his NBA career. He didn't get a guaranteed contract with Dallas nor any decent offers from other teams.

It’s not Yi's skills, but his mentality that should be blamed for his lack of success in the league, NBA expert Chris Sheridan said.

"It is because despite all of the potential and talent Yi possesses, he never played with enough confidence," the former ESPN and AP writer said on his blog on Sunday.

Yi did, however, received heavy interest from major teams in Europe, including Real Madrid, during the off-season but refused them all, trying to focus on potential NBA opportunities.

Yi’s departure from the US means there are no Chinese-born players in the NBA now, however, it's a major boost for the Southern Tigers and the local league.

The seven-time CBA titlist crashed out of last season’s playoffs in the opening round against eventual champion the Beijing Ducks.

The team has now vowed to recapture the crown with Yi's return.

"It is a great help for us at this time. It has refueled the team while boosting our confidence to regain the championship," said veteran forward Zhu Fangyu.

Li Yuanwei, a former CBA chief, was upbeat about Yi's return as well.

"It’s good news both for him and the league. He needs enough minutes to maintain his form and the CBA needs local idols to keep moving forward," he said.

However, the move may not mark the end of Yi's NBA career as he remains an attractive prospect for some teams.

"I do not believe he has played his last game in the NBA. Because the Chinese season ends so early, if he has a good year for Guangdong I would imagine there will be an NBA playoff team willing to sign him for the remainder of the 2013 season," said Sheridan.