LA CROSSE, Wis - Yi Jianlian acknowledged he's already strained from the spotlight after one meaningless game.
"There's a lot of attention on me," he said through translator Roy Lu. "I feel the pressure."
Yi made his inauspicious debut for the Bucks, but fellow rookie Joakim Noah looked much more like the polished pro in Milwaukee's 93-88 victory over the Chicago Bulls in the exhibition opener on Tuesday night.
Chicago Bulls Joakim Noah defends Milwaukee Bucks center Yi Jianlian of China as Yi tries to pass the ball during the second half of an NBA preseason basketball game Tuesday, Oct. 9, 2007, in La Crosse, Wis. [Agencies]
"As a rookie player in my first season, there aren't just one or two points I need to work are. There are quite a lot," Yi said.
Yi fouled out in 16 minutes, managing only three points with two steals, a blocked shot and a turnover.
"The rules of FIBA and the rules of NBA are different, it takes time for me to deal with this through more training," he said.
Noah, who led Florida to back-to-back titles in college, was just as intense as he had been in his final game with the Gators when he entered late in the first quarter. The ninth pick of the draft opened with a slam and blocked Andrew Bogut's shot on the ensuing possession.
"It felt good being able to play," Noah said. "I got a great pass and that's my job around the rim, try to make everything."
Noah finished with six points, four rebounds, four assists, a steal and a block in 23 minutes. Chicago got 13 from Andres Nocioni and 10 apiece from Luol Deng, Ben Wallace and rookie Aaron Gray. Bogut scored 14 points for the Bucks, Charlie Bell 13 and Royal Ivey 10.
Yi came in with 59 seconds left to play in the first quarter to a raucous ovation and chants of "EE!" He altered a shot by Thomas Gardner, who later dunked over him, but he struggled to defend the energetic Noah.
"The goal is to get better, and I mean that's what I would say to him," Noah said. "It doesn't have anything to do with me playing better than him."
Yi, the 6-foot-11 power forward selected sixth, looked overmatched in his four minutes of play in the first half and picked up three quick fouls, the last for an illegal screen that sent him to the bench for a counseling session by Desmond Mason.
In the second half, Yi hit a 9-foot jumper, his only field goal. Too often he looked tentative on offense, such as when he made a nice steal and had only Noah to beat. Instead of going to the basket strong, he neither hit the shot nor drew a foul.
"Lots of my old habits I need to change," Yi said.
Yi has been the center of attention ever since he was drafted. He only began practicing with the Bucks on Thursday and he was at the door greeting fans an hour and a half before the game. Albert Vang, a 22-year-old engineering student at the University of Wisconsin-La Crosse, had his picture taken with him.
"The world is changing. Basketball is just not about black and white players now," said Vang, of Hmong descent. "Everybody's skilled. Everybody's got equal talent. It's a diversity sport now."
Noah, meanwhile, heard his own name chanted among the hundreds of Bulls fans in the sellout crowd of 6,118 at the former CBA venue, the first time the Bucks had played there in eight years.
"It's exciting, first NBA game, and I've got cool teammates and stuff," said Noah, who acknowledged he didn't even want to lose the exhibition. "The best thing about the NBA is you've got another one in a couple of days."