Nets hope addition of Yi, better team play will draw Chinese fans
EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- The New Jersey Nets' acquisition of Yi Jianlian was strictly a basketball decision, not a marketing one aimed at drawing more Chinese fans, Nets owner Bruce Ratner said Wednesday.
Ratner agreed that it's hard to ignore the fact that the 7-foot Yi, who averaged 8.6 points and 5.2 rebounds in 66 games as a rookie with Milwaukee, will lure Chinese fans to the Meadowlands come October.
"We do have a tremendous Chinese-American market in the New York and New Jersey area," Ratner said. "If we have success on the court, we can tap into that market in a huge way."
The acquisition of Yi, 20, has already drawn considerable attention from the Chinese community, both in the United States and China. Wednesday's news conference to introduce the players brought the largest turnout of Chinese print and broadcast media the team has seen in recent years.
"I think this is the right fit for me," Yi said through an interpreter. "It's a new, young team with a lot of talent."
Before debuting with the Nets, Yi will play in next month's Olympics in his native China along with Yao Ming, who is recovering from foot surgery.
"Yao just came back to practice with our team and I think he's going to be better than ever," Yi said. "I think we're ready to go."
Nets general manager Kiki Vandeweghe said he was impressed by Yi when he worked out with him last summer.
"The first thing that impressed me was how tall he was," Vandeweghe said. "He also had an athletic body and could shoot the ball extremely well. I told him that if I ever got to another team, I would try to get him."
The team also introduced the 28-year-old Simmons, a native of Chicago and product of DePaul, who will enter his seventh NBA season. He slumped to just 7.6 points and 3.2 rebounds in 71 games with the Bucks last year.
"It's going to be an opportunity for me to play around the basket and show my athleticism more," the 6-foot-6 Simmons said. "I just want to go out and have fun. That's what it's all about."
The Nets also announced Wednesday that they signed second-round draft pick Chris Douglas-Roberts. Contract details were not disclosed.
Douglas-Roberts, a 6-7 guard from Memphis, helped lead the Tigers to the NCAA title game in April. He averaged 18.1 points and 4.1 rebounds per game for Memphis last season as a junior and was Conference USA player of the year.
Copyright 2008 by The Associated Press