Mavericks sign forward Yi Jianlian

Updated: January 6, 2012, 6:07 PM ET
By Jeff Caplan | ESPNDallas.com

The Dallas Mavericks officially signed 6-foot-10 forward Yi Jianlian to a one-year contract Friday.

Yi has been in Dallas most of this week, attending the team's home games and meeting players. He was assigned to the team's D-League affiliate, the Texas Legends in Frisco.

"Time will determine that," coach Rick Carlisle said regarding when Yi might join the Mavs. "It's going to take him awhile to get used to what we're doing. I can't give an accurate answer right now as far as when exactly he's going to be up and on the roster."

Yi, 24, has spent the past four seasons in the NBA but was still available in free agency thanks in part to a knee injury he suffered during a brief stint playing for the Guangdong Southern Tigers, after helping the Chinese national team earlier this summer clinch a spot in the 2012 London Olympics.

Yi averaged 16.7 points and 10.3 rebounds in three games with Guangdong but has been recovering from the knee injury, which occurred after a teammate fell on him during a game.

Playing in the D-League will reunite him with Legends coach Del Harris, who coached China to an eight-place finish at the 2004 Olympics in Athens.

In 2011 with the national team under American coach Bob Donewald, Yi averaged 16.6 points, 10.8 rebounds and 1.4 blocks and earned tournament MVP honors while leading China to the FIBA Asia championship.

The Mavericks were well-acquainted with Yi's game long before he was drafted by the Milwaukee Bucks with the sixth overall pick in the 2007 NBA draft, thanks to Mavs president of basketball operations Donnie Nelson's longstanding connections to China.

Dallas was the first NBA team to successfully sign a Chinese player, drafting Wang Zhi-Zhi with the 36th overall pick in 1999 and ultimately bringing him over during the 2001-02 season.

Yi spent last season with the Washington Wizards and has career averages of 8.5 points and 5.3 rebounds.

Unlike Wilson Chandler, J.R. Smith, Kenyon Martin and Aaron Brooks -- who signed in China during the lockout and who will not be able to return to play in the NBA until the Chinese season ends in March -- Yi will receive his FIBA letter of clearance from Guangdong to immediately join the Mavericks because the Chinese Basketball Association's rules forbidding in-season out clauses for NBA players does not apply to Chinese nationals.

Jeff Caplan covers the Mavericks for ESPNDallas.com. Marc Stein of ESPN.com contributed to this report.

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