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News » Hear Yi speak of pressure

Hear Yi speak of pressure

Hear Yi speak of pressure The pressure he faces is unlike that of the typical NBA player, and for the first time, Yi Jianlian seems ready to acknowledge that.

Because you wondered: Does he feel it at all? An inane premise, as it turns out. Anyone whose every move is followed by 1.3 billion countrymen and a few dozen people in New Jersey knows he's under the microscope this season, even if you're the great stoic.

So one week into camp, it's time to find out how he is handling the pressure of his job, because that is precisely what everyone in the organization has feared since his disappearing act over the last month last season.

"Try to be different from last year," the Nets forward said yesterday, when asked what he wants out of his third NBA season. "Show everybody that I'm better from last season. That I've changed."

Everyone changes, and in his case, it can only be for the better.

But sometimes circumstances don't change.

He still has a bull's-eye on his back -- a broader one now, since the injured Yao Ming isn't going to get much media attention while he spends the next 12 months in the whirlpool or on the treadmill.

"Probably more focus on me, a lot more this year," Yi agreed. "To me, I'm going to try to put myself in the game and control what I can control. It will be there. I know that."

On the court, Yi has undergone some significant changes. His body has filled out. The way the Nets will use him on offense has changed -- less perimeter-oriented, more catches on the elbow and in the post. What hasn't changed -- yet -- is that he still gets lost at times defensively, judging by the Nets' 115-107 defeat against the Knicks yesterday, when Yi had a very rough time keeping tabs on Al Harrington and Jared Jeffries on the perimeter.

How Yi responds to such disappointment is worth watching. A year ago, he was overwhelmed by it. If it happens again, he probably has a pretty good idea that the Nets are going to have to punt on their plan to turn him into a starter.

"Yeah, for sure I feel" pressure, he said yesterday. "I don't show it? I mean, not everyone shows it in their face. I'm just keeping it to myself. But I have to fight through it.

"It effects how I play. If I play good or bad, it's different. But I think about it a lot, like when I go home. And I think of how to find a way to play better in the game."

His best sounding board?

"My parents, usually," he said. "They got here a few days ago."

He is expected to return to China with them soon, to represent Guangdong in the Chinese national games. The dates haven't been worked out yet, but it could be problematic for the Nets . The Chinese reportedly wanted Yi back from Oct. 16-28, but Nets president Rod Thorn said, "That's not going to work. They understand he has to play here."

As a starting power forward, probably.

Coach Lawrence Frank doesn't confirm that, exactly, but the only alternatives are Sean Williams, Eduardo Najera and Tony Battie. They didn't trade away the ninth-best scorer in the league for any of those three, as they did for Yi.

For now, Frank repeats his mantra, stating that his only commitment is to the team, that his only agenda is victory, and that if Yi is part of a winning formula, he'll play.

"I don't want to put too much pressure on him," Frank said. "I'd rather say that we need to continue to see progress. He knows more of what's going on this year -- he has a better feel, understands what's expected of him, and also the competition he faces on a night-in-night-out basis. Hopefully what he can do will get him through the peaks and valleys of this season.

"But defensively he's got to be able to hold his own. It's one thing individually -- he'll have a tough matchup every night. It's as a team defender, you have to be very solid -- understand how to help, your bumps, when to rotate, your techniques. Being a team defender has to be a huge priority. And I just think he'll take a step forward."

"I know I must" improve, said Yi, who seems to be far more comfortable in an NBA environment this season, partly because his English is much improved. "I know there's more attention on me. I have to show the improvement I've made."

Notes: The Nets were actually the better team as long as they pounded it into Brook Lopez (19 points, all in the first half) while Devin Harris and Chris Douglas-Roberts were also on the floor, as the Knicks didn't find it necessary to double the center. ...

Nets forwards were outscored 74-36, and they committed 10 of the team's 24 turnovers. ... Keyon Dooling had his most intensive workout yet in pregame, shooting for 20 minutes, followed by 10 minutes of running. Eduardo Najera will practice tomorrow. The team will take today off and visit West Point.

Author: Fox Sports
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Added: October 6, 2009


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