Let me start by saying I am not here to praise Yi Jianlian. I don't particularly like the guy. I haven't liked him since he tried to force his way out of Milwaukee as a rookie. (Boo-hoo, you want to play in a place that has more Chinese people? I know a place where there are a crap-load of Chinese people...they call it "China.") Also, it seemed like two or three of the six good performances he's had in his NBA career have come against the Knicks.
But I am here today to advocate signing Yi as the Knicks' 15th man. Now, I'll be the first to say there isn't a single basketball-related reason to sign him. Seth mentioned in his 15th man post that he wouldn't consider signing Yi because the Knicks' need a "genuine big man" That's a little harsh, don't you think? Yi is genuinely big, and he's almost certainly a man. However, if you're looking for a big man who can do big man things on a basketball court - rebound, guard animate objects - then Yi isn't your guy.
if we have learned one thing this offseason, it's that the construction of the Knicks' roster transcends basketball. James Dolan opened pandora's box when he refused to sign a valuable basketball asset purely out of spite. The message has been sent: anyone can be signed or not signed for any reason. For all we know, Dolan is planning to give the 15th roster spot to his bassist from JD and the Straight Shot.
So why should the Knicks sign Yi? In short, because it benefits me. I've been teaching in China for over five years, and last season was the first time I was able to draw anyone into a conversation about the Knicks that didn't start with the question "Why would you like the Knicks?" Now that Lin has been dumped, I've been forced to try and explain James Dolan's management style to them. Imagine trying to explain James Dolan to a Chinese person. If I were talking to an American, I could just toss out a well-worn Godfather cliche:
"James Dolan believes you should never take sides against the family. He apparently believes the Knicks are a mafia family instead of pro sports franchise. He wants to be Michael Corleone, but in fact he's the bastard offspring of Sonny and Fredo."
Unfortunately, most Chinese people haven't seen the Godfather. So what do I say: James Dolan is Mao Zedong without the camp appeal?
Yi Jianlian solves all of those problems for me. The man is still inexplicably popular in China, despite his suckitude. He carried their flag at the opening ceremonies, for God's sake! This is China, the country that won the most gold medals in Beijing, and they picked him? My Chinese mother-in-law had forbidden me from making any more Yi jokes...she thinks he's very handsome. (I'm also no longer allowed to point out that her favorite TV host looks and dresses like a vampire. Seriously, look at that guy and tell me he don't look like Count Dracula.)
Yi Jianlian on the Knicks would mean more Knick games on Chinese TV, and that would be much appreciated in this house.
And if I still haven't convinced you...well, he did just drop 30 on the Spanish national team. So there's that.