BIZ BATTLES TO MAKE IT IN NBA
Bismack Biyombo’s road to the NBA didn’t get off to the easiest start. After recording the first triple-double in the history of the Nike Hoop Summit on April 9, 2011 while playing for the World Select team, tallying 12 points, 11 rebounds and a Hoop Summit-record 10 blocked shots, the 19-year-old Biyombo put the NBA on notice. He impressed the Bobcats brass so much that Charlotte swung a three-team, draft-day trade with Sacramento and Milwaukee to land Biz with the No. 7 overall pick in the 2011 NBA Draft. Unfortunately, thanks to the NBA lockout and an extended contract dispute with his overseas team, Biyombo would not officially sign with the Bobcats until December 19, 2011 – the day of the Charlotte’s first preseason game following the lockout – and became the youngest player in the NBA last season. "It’s been a long time I’ve been waiting for this,” Biyombo told me the day he signed his contract. “Thank God for this, and thanks to a lot of guys who helped put this together to get this thing done… I really appreciate that we finally got it done. I’m really excited and ready to get to work."
INTO THE FIRE
Biyombo wouldn’t get much practice time on the court with his new teammates before being thrown into the fire in an NBA preseason game just three days after signing his new deal. A little over 36 hours later he suited up on December 22 in Atlanta and finished with one point, two rebounds and two blocks in 16 minutes against the Hawks – not a bad start for a guy learning on the fly. It would be a theme that continued throughout Biyombo’s rookie season, with practice time limited and little chance to grow his knowledge of the game outside of game action in the league’s compressed schedule.
Biyombo was anxious to get on the court early for the Cats, but was held to an average of 10.3 minutes in December while putting up 1.3 points and hauling down 2.7 rebounds in three games heading into the New Year. But in back-to-back games at Miami on New Year’s Day (six points, six rebounds, three blocks) and at Cleveland on January 3 (eight points, five rebounds, four blocks), Biyombo showed flashes of his potential with averages of 7.0 points, 5.5 rebounds and 3.5 blocks in 21.5 minutes off the bench.
Biyombo broke out against Dwight Howard - arguably the league’s best big man -with the first double-double of his career on January 17, 2012 in a 96-89 loss in Orlando. Biyombo connected on all five of his shots for 11 points to go with 10 rebounds and four blocked shots against the perennial all-star.
Biyombo’s most memorable performance of his rookie season came in the final moments of the Cats 73-71 victory in New Orleans on March 12. Biz finished with 12 points, seven rebounds and four blocks in the win – with none as memorable as his swat on Trevor Ariza down the right baseline in the final moments that secured Charlotte’s win.
"That was awesome," former Head Coach Paul Silas said after the game. "For a kid 19 years old and really has not played the game this much, he retained exactly what we talked about and came up with the big block."
Biyombo finished his rookie campaign averaging 5.2 points, 5.8 rebounds and 1.8 blocks in 63 games, but upped those averages to 6.4 points, 7.3 rebounds and 2.1 blocks in 41 starts, showing that he belonged in the Bobcats starting lineup. Take a look at Biz’s April numbers and the improvement is evident - 7.1 points, 6.9 rebounds, 2.0 blocks in 16 games to boost all of his averages in the final month of the season.
He finished the season ranked No. 9 in the NBA in blocks per game (1.83) and total blocks (115), blew away all rookies in blocks, recording 30 more than Boston’s Greg Stiemsma and was third in rebounding behind Denver’s Kenneth Faried (7.7) and Cleveland’s Tristan Thompson (6.5).
GETTING OFFENSIVE IN 2012-13
Bobcats fans should be looking for more from Biyombo on the offensive end in 2012-13. He had 10 double-digit scoring performances in 2011-12, including a career-best 14 points in a 95-90 loss to the Bucks on April 6 in Milwaukee. Still, Biyombo was unable to string together back-to-back double-digit scoring games last season – something that should change in his second year.
If his results in the 2012 NBA Summer League in Las Vegas are any indicator, Biyombo could be primed for an impact season in Charlotte in 2012-13. He averaged 8.6 points, 6.0 rebounds, 1.80 blocks and shot 55.6 percent from the field in 21.0 minutes in five summer league games, helping lead the Bobcats to a 4-1 record under new Head Coach Mike Dunlap.
"I'm excited because he’s a hard worker who is always in the gym," Biyombo said of his new coach. "He's done some pretty good things for us. I think we’re in a good position with him, and he’s bringing a lot to the table… I think we’re young and can run the floor – that’s what he wants us to do."
Biyombo is also looking forward to spending some time bonding with fellow draft pick Kemba Walker both in practice and off the court this season – something they weren’t able to do much of last year.
"Honestly, this is going to help us a lot because we're really going to get to know each other and spend a lot of time together," said Biyombo. "We didn’t get a chance to do that last season at all."