Chinese big man Yi Jianlian has asked the Los Angeles Lakers for his release from the team, according to ESPN’s Marc Stein. The request comes after Jianlian met with Lakers’ officials on Sunday and learned that he would not have the role on the team in which he initially expected.
After a strong performance at the Rio Olympics, the Lakers brought him back to the NBA from China on a one-year, $8 million deal. The team had reportedly pursued the Chinese star for two offseasons before finally landing him this time around.
Jianlian was in a battle for the final spot on the Lakers’ roster with forwards Thomas Robinson and Metta World Peace. Without Jianlian in the mix, the Lakers’ roster will be down to 16 players, meaning that the franchise will need to cut one more player before Monday’s 5 p.m. Eastern Time deadline for finalizing rosters.
According to Stein, it is not currently clear whether Jianlian will seek a role with another NBA team or return to China once his release is granted.
Jianlian was the sixth pick in the 2007 NBA Draft by the Milwaukee Bucks. He played five seasons in his first stint in the league with the Bucks, Brooklyn Nets, Washington Wizards and Dallas Mavericks. He averaged 7.9 points and 4.9 rebounds during that stint and earned a reputation as one of the bigger draft busts in recent years.
He has spent the last four seasons in China with the Guangdong Southern Tigers and put himself in position for a return to the NBA with a strong performance in Rio, where he averaged 20.4 points and 6.6 rebounds in five games for the Chinese National Team.