Perhaps something I might have neglected to say in my last post is this: It is not certain that Yi Jianlian will be going to the NBA. Probably what a lot of people missed is the fact that it was not the CBA that gave their consent to Yi, it was his club that gave him their OK.
So, does this announcement mean nothing then? No, it actually means lot for Yi's chances. When Yao Ming and Team Yao was preparing for the draft in the summer of 2002, he not only had to negotiate with the CBA, he also had to talk with his club. People might forget that there was actually a lot of uncertainty all the way up to the draft, and the Rockets had to have a lot of confidence to stand by their man. For Yi, he has already cleared one obstacle, and gained an ally. Because they announced their consent, his team will not want to lose face if he can't enter after all, so they'll be fighting for him when he's talking to the CBA. Furthermore, now the NBA teams will know Yi is serious, and what's more, he has the backing of his club. There might not be a team like the Rockets that would take the chance on an unproven rookie that might not even come over, so every bit of official backing is a point in Yi's favor
Another factor that's going for Yi is that Yao has been through all this before. The CBA will now be more confident in handling the situation, and Yi's people will have a precedent to go by.
Does this mean that Yi's path is paved already smooth? Well, let's say it's smoother than Yao's was, but it's definitely not going to be a rosy pathway from here to the NBA. For one thing, the CBA has set the rule that Chinese players can't leave China for the NBA until they are 22. Yi will still be only 19 when the the 2007 NBA draft takes place. However, I think the CBA can see far enough ahead to be able to see that this rule should be either be abolished, or that Yi should be an exception. Yi isn't as ready as he should be, but he's as ready as he'll ever be playing in China.
There's also the financial aspect, as both the Guangdong Tigers and the CBA will want some monetary reimbursement for giving away a crown jewel. There are rumors that Guangdong will want even more money than the Shanghai Sharks wanted for Yao, which I think is somewhat greedy of them, because Yi's absence won't affect the Tigers the way Yao's did.
Meanwhile, this news makes its way into Yao's hearing, and he gives his first response. The first thing he said (or at least, the first quote of his in the article) said that he didn't want Yi to end up in Houston, because if the Rockets were high enough to draft him, then that would probably mean they would not have made the playoffs. That's a very good point, and that's not mentioning the fact that Yi would not be the kind of three-point shooting power forward (Steve Novak, Scott Padgett, Juwan Howard) or scrapper (Chuck Hayes) that the Rockets are looking for. Yao did say the NBA team Yi should be on was the Phoenix Suns. Unfortunately, the Suns will probably also have too low a draft pick to draft Yi.
One interesting quote Yao did have was this: "I can't say now whether Yi entering the NBA will be helpful for Chinese basketball, but it will be good for his personal improvement." Personally, I think Yi's personal improvement will help Chinese basketball, as another NBA-level player will automatically make the Chinese national team better.
Speaking of the national team, Jonas Kazlauskas must have a big headache right now. Six of his players, four of whom are supposed to be starting, have nagging injuries. Du Feng has a knee injury, Wang ZhiZhi is still fighting his leg injury, Liu Wei just pulled a ligament, Yi Jianlian and Wang Shipeng sprained their ankles, and Li Nan is also injured. While they are not really, really serious, they will require rest, and the games against the NBDL team, the Albuquerque Thunderbirds, is coming up in less than two weeks, and the Asian Games will be starting in days. However, there might be a silver lining, because if one of the above players pulls outs, a younger player, just waiting for a chance to shine, might be able to claim a spot on the roster that would normally be filled by that veteran.