NBA officials scouting for China's Yi

Updated: 2007-03-19 19:12

The finals of CBA between Bayi Rockets and Guangdong Tigers, China Basketball Association, have drawn much attention from local basketball fans, and also a number of NBA executives and scouts, who have arrived China to watch top Chinese player Yi Jianlian, a latent NBA star.

Five teams, the Chicago Bulls, Philadelphia 76ers, Golden State Warriors, Phoenix Suns and New Jersey Nets, sent their officials to observe the game.

Wang Zhizhi, center of Bayi Rockets and a former NBA player, won Yi's Guangdong Tigers 94-89 in Sunday night's opening game.

"We know that Yi Jianlian has declared himself eligible for this year's draft, so we have come to watch him," Phoenix's vice president of basketball operations, David Griffin, was quoted as saying.

"There are a lot of good players in this match up that are worth looking at," Griffin told the Basketball Pioneers newspaper.

Among them was seven-foot (2.12 meter) Wang, who played four years in the NBA and had a superb game on Sunday, making 10 of his 12 shots to score 22 points, while also grabbing eight rebounds.

Most importantly, Wang scored 10 points in the fourth quarter, sealing the away win for Bayi.

Despite being on the losing team, the 20-year-old Yi, also played well, scoring 24 points and hauling in eight rebounds.

He brought the crowd to their feet in the first half, taking the ball from the free throw line and soaring through defenders for a spectacular two-handed dunk.

Among the biggest NBA names in Guangdong were Chicago Bulls general manager John Paxson and former NBA great Chris Mullin, now an executive with the Golden State Warriors.

However they refused to discuss the match with the press in accordance with NBA rules.

NBA team officials are forbidden to publicly discuss possible draft selections, or their opinions of players not in the league.

The seven-foot Yi is expected to be a top pick in June's NBA draft and has long been considered as the best player to come out of China since Yao Ming, the All-Star center for the Houston Rockets.

Since returning to China last year, Wang, 29, has dominated the CBA, while becoming a key player with Yao and Yi on China's national team that will play in next year's Beijing Olympic Games.

Game two of the seven-match finals series is on Tuesday. The Guangdong Tiges are the three-time defending champions.

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