Season Recap: Hornets Lean Heavily on Bismack Biyombo For Leadership, Experience

by Sam Perley

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Although he began the year as the Hornets’ backup center, Bismack Biyombo ended his ninth NBA season as a valuable member of the team’s on-court rotation and its most experienced veteran leader in the locker room.

Playing behind Cody Zeller at the five, Biyombo averaged just over seven points on 62 percent shooting and three rebounds over his first 16 appearances of the campaign, which included one start. He broke out for a season-high 19 points in a home win over Detroit on Nov. 27 and two nights later, made a crucial block in the final minute to help beat the Pistons again on the road.

Hornets Head Coach James Borrego began utilizing a three-center rotation around this time, moving Biyombo into the starting lineup for the first of the two aforementioned games against Detroit. Over the next 24 outings, the 27-year-old averaged about eight points, eight rebounds, one assist and one block in 23 minutes of play.

The Congolese native slid in and out of the rotation the rest of the season, primarily to give Zeller and Willy Hernangómez equal shares of playing time and rest. Biyombo – who didn’t miss a single game because of injury – finished the year averaging a career-high 7.4 points and just under six rebounds, one assist and one block in 53 appearances, 29 of which were starts.

One of the most knowledgeable players on the roster, Biyombo brought rebounding, rim protection and an overall defensive mindset throughout the course of the season. But more than anything, he served as a crucial leader for a developing young Hornets core, particularly after Marvin Williams departed for Milwaukee in mid-February.

“At the beginning of the season, it was Marvin and I. And then Marv went away, so I was like, ‘Okay, here we go,’” said Biyombo. “I’ve been able to lead our young guys and help them in areas whether it’s in games or practices. It has been fun for me this year knowing you have to lead by example. You have to limit your mistakes and listen in order to help them.”

Biyombo also mentioned that one of the strengths of the team this season was the selflessness throughout the roster. It’s something that isn’t always commonplace amongst NBA teams and is generally a byproduct of great leadership at the same time.

“I think we put a big emphasis on player development, but for our team, guys got along pretty well. There haven’t been players that didn’t like or accept their roles. Everyone accepted their role. We rely on each other, we help each other and that’s been fun. You play on some teams where there’s ego. We really don’t have that on our team and that helps you as a player.”

He added, “Players feel comfortable to play with you, they’re happy when they’re on the floor. You get to excel because everything is aligned. From my point of view, our player development coaches have been amazing and the teammates around the locker room make it more fun. It’s just been great.”

Biyombo will be an unrestricted free agent this summer, although he isn’t too caught up in the process as of yet, particularly with so much uncertainty around the league this offseason.

“It’s a different free agency, but as a player, if you do what you’re supposed to do, then you shouldn’t be concerned about free agency. I love Charlotte, and I’d love to be back, but at the end of the day, I don’t control things or other people or what other teams are going to do. I’m excited about the development of our group. I think we exceeded a lot of people’s expectations, and I’m very excited for what’s coming next.”

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