Rookie center Bismack Biyombo isn't shy about saying he's the first Charlotte Bobcat to practice and the last Bobcat to leave.
That's no fib: Ask assistant coach Rob Werdann, the team's big-man specialist:
"The thing about Biz is his willingness to work. He has absolutely no agenda other than improvement," Werdann said Wednesday night after a 102-88 loss to the Indiana Pacers. "Every day when we have our little extra sessions, I ask him, 'What do you want to do today, Biz?' He says, 'I want to get better.' "
And he has. Three days after being embarrassed by Pacers center Roy Hibbert in a 35-point loss, Biyombo had one of his best games, finishing with nine points, 10 rebounds and six shots blocked. In this horrible 4-28 season, one of the few promising notes for the Bobcats is Biyombo's quick improvement.
When he showed up in December, having lost months of work with coaches by the NBA lockout, Biyombo was as raw as any rookie in recent memory. He could hardly catch the ball with any consistency.
Coach Paul Silas inserted him as a starter nine games ago, out of desperation with Byron Mullens and Gana Diop struggling. Biyombo's improvement has been remarkable.
"He really didn't understand the game hardly at all," said Silas. "But now ... the thing he's got going is he works as hard as anybody I've ever had. And he's going to be very good."
Considering the record, Silas says he'll spend the second half of the season balancing the chance to win with the obligation to develop young players. Clearly, Biyombo becomes a key project, after he spent his early pro career in Africa and Spain.
"The NBA is very different both physically and technically," Biyombo said. "Big difference. A lot of these players have just as much physical ability as me and just as big as me."
Sunday, Hibbert bullied around Biyombo and finished with 18 points and 14 rebounds. Wednesday the Bobcats gave Biyombo some help defensively and the results were much closer, as Hibbert had nine points and eight rebounds.
Former North Carolina star Tyler Hansbrough did in the Bobcats with 22 points and nine rebounds off the bench for Indiana.
Biyombo feels satisfaction in rising to what Silas expected when he threw him in with the starters.
"A lot of responsibility," Biyombo said. "To not disappoint teammates or the coach. I just do whatever they tell me to do."