Hornets Getting More Than Just Basketball from Biyombo
By Sam Perley, hornets.com
A busy summer for the Charlotte Hornets continued last Saturday night as the team landed center Bismack Biyombo and a pair of future second-round picks in a three-team deal that sent the recently-acquired Timofey Mozgov to the Orlando Magic and Julyan Stone to the Chicago Bulls.
For Biyombo – who spent his last two seasons in Orlando – this trade is a homecoming of sorts as the 25-year-old returns to the team that he began his NBA career with seven years ago. He’ll also be following in the footsteps of Hornets Assistant Coach Jay Hernandez, who had been with the Magic since the start of the 2014-15 season.
“The organization knows him as a person and the reviews on him were excellent in terms of a teammate, work ethic and fitting in from that perspective,” said Hornets President of Basketball Operations & GM Mitch Kupchak via conference call on Sunday, July 8. “He has a big part of his career still in front of him where he can continue to improve. I’ve heard nothing but good things about him being a good teammate.”
A native of the Democratic Republic of Congo, Charlotte snagged the then 18-year-old Biyombo with the seventh overall pick in the 2011 NBA Draft. He played four seasons with the team, posting averages of 4.4 points on 49.7 percent shooting, 6.1 rebounds and 1.6 blocks in 21.0 minutes over 284 games. He currently ranks fifth on the Hornets’ all-time blocks leaderboard (443) and seventh in offensive rebounds (571).
Biyombo headed north of the border to join the Toronto Raptors in 2015, where he played a significant role in the franchise’s first-ever Eastern Conference Finals team. He signed a four-year deal with the Magic as an unrestricted free agent in the summer of 2016.
Last season, Biyombo averaged 5.7 points on 52.0 percent shooting, 5.7 rebounds and 1.2 blocks in 18.2 minutes across 82 appearances. The Congolese big man will be relied on largely for his rebounding and shot-blocking abilities, particularly with Dwight Howard no longer on the Hornets roster.
Kupchak added, “[Biyombo’s] clearly one of the better rebounders in the NBA. “We have good rebounders, but nobody that puts up numbers like he does. The other thing is rim protection. He handles that as one of the better defenders in the league in terms of patrolling, protecting the paint and the rim.”
Biyombo’s return to Charlotte also reunites him with former teammate, long-time friend and fellow Class of 2011 draftee, Kemba Walker, who spoke glowingly of him prior to a game against Orlando in December 2016.
“Biz is one of my good friends, who I’ve been around him for a long time. We got drafted together, so I know what he’s capable of. He’s worked hard since Day 1. He puts in the time, he puts in the effort,” said Walker.
“We grew up together. He was the seventh pick. I was the ninth pick. We both came here [and] from draft day on, we were together a lot. Lot of days in the gym together, trying to get better [during] those rough years here. Those rough years really helped us both become better players.”
During the interview, Walker was also broached about Biyombo’s ability to influence a game even if he’s not compiling huge statistical numbers.
“Biz is one of the perfect guys for that. Defensively, he can anchor any team. He’s a great defensive presence and he can make plays offensively as well. He’s a really smart player and doesn’t have to affect [the game] offensively as much. Just with his energy and passion, he can affect any game.”
But it’s not just the basketball games themselves where Biyombo is known for making an impact. For years, he has been tirelessly committed to improving the living conditions in his native DRC, which has struggled for decades with political turmoil and violence. His organization – The Bismack Biyombo Foundation – sponsors projects revolving around sport, education and healthcare to improve the country’s way of life and the future of its citizens.
Biyombo was a highly-regarded fan favorite during his first tenure with the team, wowing crowds with his athleticism, eye-popping blocks and charisma. When taking in Bismack Biyombo’s entire body of work though, it seems the Hornets are getting not only a great player on the court, but perhaps an even better person off of it.