Lakers, Yi Jianlian close to completing deal for forward’s NBA return

China's Yi Jianlian, right, works around Australia's forward Cameron Bairstow at the Olympics on Tuesday.
(Andrej Isakovic / AFP / Getty Images)

The Lakers and Chinese star Yi Jianlian are in the final stages of completing a deal for the forward to return to the NBA, said league officials who were not authorized to speak publicly about the contract.

Yi’s contract would be for the veteran’s minimum of $1.139 million that could reach “several million more” if he reaches some wide-ranging incentive bonuses in the deal, one official said.

But the deal hasn’t been completed yet because Yi and the Lakers are still waiting for clearance on several fronts that could “happen soon or could take a while,” one of the officials said.

The official said Yi’s Chinese Guangdong team first has to sign off on the deal and then send it to the Chinese Basketball Assn. to sign off on. Then the CBA has to send to the contract to FIBA, the federation that governs international basketball competition, to sign off it. Then the contract goes to the NBA for approval.

One official said Lakers General Manager Mitch Kupchak had interest in signing Yi for the 2015-16 season, but couldn’t get a deal worked out.


Yi, 28, was drafted sixth overall by the Milwaukee Bucks in 2007. He last played in the NBA during the 2011-12 season with the Dallas Mavericks.

Listed at 6-11 and 243 pounds, Yi averaged 7.9 points and 4.9 rebounds per game during the five years he played in the NBA.