LAS VEGAS When Kemba Walker shows up mornings at Time Warner Cable Arena, Bismack Biyombo is there. When Walker shows up evenings at TWC, Biyombo is there.
Finally Walker, the Charlotte Bobcats point guard, just had to ask:
Biz .do you live here? Walker wondered.
Yeah, kinda. Bobcats personnel say its not uncommon for Biyombo, their 19-year-old big man, to work out three times a day this off-season. Thats partially about his natural enthusiasm and partially about his Spanish basketball background two in-season practices a day are the norm among European pro teams.
Biyombo knows he has much to improve post moves, free throws, jump-shot range, etc. If theres anyone programmed to succeed on this Bobcats roster, its this guy from the Congo who was hardly even known around basketball before exploding at the Nike Hoop Summit international tournament 1 1/2 years ago.
He was a shot-blocker/rebounder and little else. After a rookie season without the benefit of a summer league, Biyombo has thrown himself into this off-season. Hes playing for the Bobcats in Las Vegas, and he was a constant in voluntary workouts when new coach Mike Dunlap was hired last month.
That first day Dunlap arrived was telling for both him and Biyombo. Dunlap began correcting players form immediately and Biyombo sponged up the information. At the end of a two-hour workout, he sprinted to Dunlap, grabbed his hand and started thanking his new boss for all the attention.
Not everyone wants to work with you as much as he does. I always appreciate someone who is going to do that, Biyombo said. Im learning a lot about the game. We didnt have the same kind of practices last year.
In fairness to Dunlaps predecessor, Paul Silas, there wasnt the same opportunity in a compacted, post-lockout season to teach. Coaches couldnt interact with players from July through December, because of the lockout, and then there were hardly any practice days in a 66-game schedule.
Silas planned to go to work on Biyombos offensive limitations, but then was told he wouldnt be back. Dunlap is tutoring Biyombo, but is also taking a patient approach keeping in mind hes coaching the equivalent in age to a college sophomore.
Last season Biyombo averaged 5.2 points, 5.8 rebounds and just under two blocked shots a game.
I just tell him to rebound and optimize his positioning in the lane, Dunlap said. We want him really strong at the rim (as a shot-blocker) so that people cant take advantage of us.
Interior defense was among the Bobcats most prominent weaknesses last season, and obviously they would have been that much worse without Biyombo. But they need him to be more of a factor offensively. Certainly improving on 48 percent foul shooting is a must.
Dunlap said Biyombos technique the way he holds his elbow and releases shots isnt bad. So this is more a matter of practice than reconstructing his mechanics. Biyombo is never resistant to practice.
I just want to be better. So I show up at 9 and Im pretty much always there until 6. Biyombo said. Its a gift to be able to play this game at this level. If I have the talent to play NBA ball, then theres a lot I want to accomplish. I feel like I owe that to the game.
But three workouts a day? Is this kid setting himself up for burnout?
Some sessions are physical, but some are mental, Dunlap said. So Im not worried.