Hours after Yi Jianlian officially signed with the Dallas Mavericks and became the first-ever NBA veteran to take a rehab assignment in the NBA D-League, he spoke with NBA.com about what he can bring to Dallas and what he hopes to gain from his time with the Legends, including time with his former Chinese national team coach Del Harris. On Friday night, watch his momentous NBA D-League debut against the Austin Toros on Futurecast!
Yuting Zhou, NBA.com: You will have your first game in the U.S. since last April tonight. Now that youíre on the bus on the way to your team, how are you feeling?
Yi Jianlian, Texas Legends: I do have a game tonight, but I look it as training. Because of the schedule, I havenít had any opportunity to train together with my other teammates. Tonightís Legends game will help me to recover, to get into game mode as soon as possible. Hopefully I will get up to the Mavs soon.
NBA.com: The Mavs signed you on a one-year deal Ė what are they looking for from you?
Yi: It should be my speed. And my shooting range. I know I can contribute to the team.
NBA.com: As the defending champions, the Mavsí start hasn't been great this season. What are your thoughts about their current situation?
Yi: Yes, itís true that itís not a good a start. I think itís because the preparation was too rushed. [With a short training camp], the team just hasnít had enough time. I believe after more games, the Mavs will show their championship level.
NBA.com: Itís a new season: what are your expectations or goals for yourself?
Yi: First of all, I am very excited to be back on the court. I joined a good team this season, with so many talented players, and that definitely will help me to improve myself. I wish the team will have a wonderful season. I have a lot of confidence in it.
NBA.com: When you get drafted, a lot of people thought your game looked a lot like Dirk Nowitzkiís. Now, youíre his teammate. How do you feel about that? Your one-legged fadeaway has only improved Ė are you going to get some advice from Dirk?
Yi: Talking about shooting skills, Dirk is the top level. He is MVP of last Finals. I have a huge distance compared to him. But as a teammate, I believe I can learn from him a lot. I am really looking forward to this.
NBA.com: Youíll have a lot of competition. For just the No. 4 position, they have Nowitzki, Lamar Odom, Brandan Wright, and Shawn Marion. Compared to those four, whereís your advantage?
Yi: Each player has different advantage. I can play four as well as five. It will be healthy competition.
NBA.com: Now that youíve had a few days to practice with the Legends, how do you feel?
Yi: Iíve been mainly focused on training with Coach Del Harris. Iíve made a full recovery. Iím well prepared for back on court, including physical conditioning and paperwork.
NBA.com: D-League showcase is coming next week. Are you going?
Yi: Iím not so sure if I will go or not. Maybe I will be called by Mavs soon.
NBA.com: Now that Yao is retired, you are the only Chinese player in NBA. Is there any different feeling, compared to when Yao was still in the league? Also, Zhizhi Wang was with Dalls for a long time, has he given you some advice?
Yi: I always regard Yao Ming as my role model. He is very successful. But he had to choose to retire early because of injures. Fans over the world are sad. Thatís not the ending fans want to see. To me, everything is the same. Itís all about improving myself everyday and keeping moving forward. As far as signing with Dallas, it just happened. I had no time to contact Zhizhi Wang.
NBA.com: China fans are waiting for the day you finally get back to the NBA. Chinese New Year is coming, do you have any words here to fans?
Yi: Same as previous years: I hope everybody will have an enriching, perfect new year. Let us make the dream come true together!
For the interview in Chinese, click here!