Rookie Yi starts to play opener against Magic

Updated: 2007-10-30 15:12

WASHINGTON - Rookie Yi Jianlian of China, the sixth overall pick in the June NBA draft, gained a starting position in his first NBA game, said Milwaukee newspaper on Monday.

According to Milwaukee Sentinel, in the middle of the Bucks' practice session this morning, coach Larry Krystkowiak told his players the starting lineup for Wednesday's season opener at Orlando.

The 20-year-old Yi Jianlian and veteran small forward Desmond Mason will start with guards Mo Williams, Michael Redd and center Andrew Bogut.

That meant that Charlie Villanueva would come off the bench at power forward, with Bobby Simmons backing up Mason at small forward.

"I want to have some energy, and that's a high-energy group," Krystkowiak said of his starters. "And I want to have some offensive presence coming off the bench at the same time.

"I think he's got a great upside, and he's doing a nice job with us," Krystkowiak said of Yi. "He knows where he's supposed to be; he knows the plays. He's as good a big guy as we have in pick- and-roll coverage.

"When we play Orlando, they're a fast-break team like no other. The ball gets pushed down your throat. I think if we put the stopwatch on our bigs, I think Yi would be first or second in a race. I like his chances of getting back, and I want to set a little defensive tone. Desmond will guard, Yi will guard."

The newspaper said Yi felt excited about his opening-night start and conceded a little bit nervous after he was told to start in his team's opener.

"I'm excited more for the team," Yi said. "I'm new to the NBA game, and there are still a lot of things I need to learn. I hope to play good in the first game and have a good start. My teammates are all very kind and supportive of me."

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