Published: Tuesday September 25, 2012 MYT 2:30:00 PM
Basketball: Yi back in China after NBA journey
BEIJING: Yi Jianlian has secured a one-year deal to return to his old club back home after the Chinese international failed to re-sign with the Dallas Mavericks in the US.
The move to Guangdong Tigers leaves no Chinese-born players in the US National Basketball Association (NBA), potentially threatening the league's efforts to build up its following in the huge Asian market.
Yi, a 2.13-metre (seven-foot) power forward, committed to play for the whole of the Chinese Basketball Association (CBA) 2012-2013 season, the Tigers reported on their website.
The NBA became hugely popular in China during the nine-year career of iconic centre Yao Ming, who retired in 2011.
But Yi, 24, never played a major role on court during his five-year NBA stint, averaging 7.9 points and 4.9 rebounds per game for four different clubs. Last season with the Mavericks, Yi averaged 2.6 points in just 30 games.
"It's a huge pity to spend his prime years on the bench in the NBA without being trusted," Guangdong general manager Liu Hongjiang said in a statement.
"He wants to play and we can provide an ideal stage."
At the London Olympics Yi was China's flag-bearer at the opening ceremony and the centrepiece of its basketball team, but the side lost all five of their matches and failed to reach the knockout stage.
Before entering the NBA, Yi helped Guangdong to three CBA titles. - AFP