Throughout the preseason, Lakers Coach Luke Walton praised one thing most often about Yi Jianlian: He was the Lakers’ best-shooting big man.
Walton’s small sample size in the Lakers preseason games, though, didn’t indicate much of a role for Yi with the team this season. As such, The Times has confirmed that Yi has asked for his release from the Lakers after a discussion with team officials on Sunday. ESPN first reported of Yi’s request.
Yi reached out Sunday in a phone meeting because he felt he would have better opportunities elsewhere. The Lakers will make their final cut this morning as planned.
Thomas Robinson (who was a Sacramento Kings lottery pick in 2012) and Metta World Peace could be candidates for the final cut, but Robinson has impressed the Lakers during this preseason. He was the last player on the court after Saturday’s practice. He stayed to shoot free throws for at least 30 minutes.
He played in six preseason games, averaging 7.6 minutes, 3.7 points and 3.7 rebounds. He shot 66.7% from the field but only 40% from the free-throw line.
It’s possible, though, that the Lakers would have found a way to keep Yi and Robinson on the roster while waiving World Peace and another player.
During the preseason, Yi averaged 10.7 minutes a game. He made 35% of his shots, but it’s important to note he averaged only 3.3 shots a game.
Had Yi made the team, his incentive-filled contract could have been worth up to $8 million, depending on how long he remained on the roster.
The Lakers have until 2 p.m. Monday to trim their roster to 15 players. Walton and General Manager Mitch Kupchak met with Jim Buss, vice president of basketball operations, and Glenn Carraro, assistant general manager, over the weekend to discuss the roster.
8:40 a.m.: This article has been updated with more details.
8:20 a.m.: This article has been updated with confirmation by The Times of Yi’s request for a release.
The article was originally published at 1:05 a.m.