Rookie to start Bucks' opener; Villanueva to come off bench

Updated: October 30, 2007, 10:37 AM ET
ESPN.com news services

MILWAUKEE -- Three weeks ago, first-round pick Yi Jianlian was not guaranteed playing time in Milwaukee's rotation.

[+] EnlargeYi Jianlian
AP Photo/Morry GashYi Jianlian came a long way to join the Bucks, but after only a few weeks of preseason finds himself in the starting lineup.

Talk about progress. The highly touted 6-foot-11 power forward from China moved his way into the Bucks' starting five for Wednesday night's opener against Orlando.

Bucks coach Larry Krystkowiak unveiled his lineup Monday. Also getting a starting nod is veteran forward Desmond Mason, who signed as a free agent in the offseason to rejoin his former team.

Other starters are guards Mo Williams and Michael Redd and center Andrew Bogut.

With that starting lineup, Charlie Villanueva will be coming off the bench at power forward and Bobby Simmons at small forward.

Yi and Villanueva will continue to compete for minutes at power forward.

"The competition is normal," Yi told the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. "I want to compete with myself, instead of Charlie V."

Krystkowiak cautioned against putting too much credence into his initial lineup.

"I remember playing," the coach told the Journal Sentinel. "So I understand the starting talk. But the five starters don't mean they're our best five players. It's not a horse race to see which guy started, which guy had the most effective preseason. There's been hundreds of cases where a guy just makes sense to get out there and start."

Mason said he liked Krystkowiak's choices.

"That's a good group," Mason told the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. "We all kind of complement each other. From a defensive standpoint, I think that group has been pretty good in practice and in the games that we played in together. It's the coaches' decision and we're going to roll with it. It's about us winning."

When Bucks officials and Yi's representatives from China came to agreement on a contract in August, general manager Larry Harris said there "were no commitment or promises made about minutes."

"The only commitment made was that we would develop him," Harris said in early October.

Yi's arrival from Shanghai has been cause for celebration in China. His every move was captured and recorded by a group of Chinese journalists that has followed him to Milwaukee.

At the time, Yi said he was eager to compete against NBA players. He already understands a lot of English and Krystkowiak said he initially was going to learn some Chinese or put a translator on the team's bench.

Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.