Thomas Robinson had vastly outplayed Yi Jianlian throughout the Los Angeles Lakers preseason, that much is certain. Even if his skillset mirrors that of Tarik Black to some degree, Robinson’s hustle, rebounding, and defensive intensity had made their mark on the Lakers to a greater degree than Yi’s advertised shooting ability (which proved mostly theoretical in nature).
Even with that said, the Kansas product still seemed to be a longshot to make the final roster mostly due to how team-friendly Yi’s contract was. Yi’s up to $8 million salary could serve as useful trade ballast, and even if he didn’t play his deal would be able to help a team save money at the trade deadline by waiving him for just $250,000.
However, Yi evidently decided that he was less than interested in serving as glorified trade-bait, with reports surfacing late Sunday night that he had asked the Lakers to waive him on Monday.
He still has to beat out Metta World Peace for the final spot, but according to Mark Medina of the L.A. Daily News, Robinson has liked what he was hearing in recent days:
Not concrete yet, but I'm told Thomas Robinson feels encouraged after receiving positive feedback in recent days about his training camp.— Mark Medina (@MarkG_Medina) October 24, 2016
It’s important to note Medina is not reporting anything concrete yet. That being said, unless the Lakers decide they absolutely need World Peace as a locker room mentor, Robinson’s chances would appear to be even better with Yi gone.
Robinson would offer far more value on the floor than World Peace in the emergency scenario either of them sees minutes, while also offering a more seamless transition should he need to step in for Black or Mozgov at any point than World Peace would if stepping in for the Lakers’ current wing corps.
Nothing will be set in stone until it actually is after this bizarre training camp and preseason, but Robinson may just have played his way onto the Lakers’ roster.
You can follow this author on Twitter at @hmfaigen.