EL SEGUNDO, Calif. — So much unknown surrounds Yi Jianlian as the former lottery pick prepares to return to the NBA following a four-year absence.
It’s unclear exactly what the 7-footer’s role with the Los Angeles Lakers will be in first-year head coach Luke Walton’s new system.
It’s undecided what position Yi will play.
And, above all else, it remains to be seen just how effective Yi will be, especially after playing with the Guandong Southern Tigers from 2012 to ’16 following brief but lackluster stints with the Milwaukee Bucks, New Jersey Nets, Washington Wizards and Dallas Mavericks.
But if Friday proved anything, it’s that there is plenty of interest and intrigue in the 28-year-old, who was surrounded by about three dozen media members –- local and international –- after his workout at the Lakers’ training facility.
Yi, a former No. 6 overall pick in the 2007 draft by the Bucks, expressed confidence about the upcoming season after playing in the Chinese Basketball Association, and after averaging 20.4 points and 6.6 rebounds for China in its five games in the Rio Olympics.
He also said he felt that the Lakers were a “good opportunity” and that the “timing” was right for an NBA return.
“I think I played a lot of games in China, in Asia, Olympics,” said Yi, who joined the Lakers on a one-year deal worth about $8 million, according to ESPN’s Ramona Shelburne and Marc Stein. “It’s a lot of experience. For me I probably got stronger and more confidence.”
He also recognized that the Lakers have a “huge” fan base in China -– thanks largely to Kobe Bryant –- as well as all over the world.
“I feel pressure, but I feel very excited for that,” Yi said.
He couldn’t offer up much in the way of specifics about what the coming season has in store for him, as much of that is still to be determined, but Yi did say that he likes to shoot 3-pointers, and that he believes he can space the floor.
Yi added that he never felt frustration about his first NBA go-around not having worked out so well. Instead, he said he just told himself to focus on working hard and playing hard. “That’s all I can do,” he said.
He also said he’s not worried about re-adjusting to the NBA after his time away.
“I think I’ll have no problem with that,” he said. “I can do it.”