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Bobcats’ Bismack Biyombo to start at center while Al Jefferson’s ankle heals

  • http://media.charlotteobserver.com/smedia/2013/10/13/00/16/m4X6E.Em.138.jpeg|358
    Jim Prisching - AP
    Milwaukee Bucks' O.J. Mayo drives to the basket around Charlotte Bobcats' Bismack Biyombo during the second half of an NBA basketball game Saturday, Oct. 12, 2013, in Milwaukee. (AP Photo/Jim Prisching)
  • http://media.charlotteobserver.com/smedia/2013/09/30/17/45/H1fS9.Em.138.jpeg|330
    Jeff Siner - jsiner@charlotteobserver.com
    Charlotte Bobcats (0) forward/center Bismack Biyombo. Jeff Siner - jsiner@charlotteobserver.com

With center Al Jefferson out with an ankle sprain, likely at least until the season opener, Bismack Biyombo has reemerged as a starter for the Charlotte Bobcats.

Specifically, he’s reemerged as a rebounder: 38 boards in 99 minutes, or a rebound every 2.6 minutes. That pleases coach Steve Clifford, whose top team-wide concern entering training camp was rebounding.

“He’s not just getting the ones he’s supposed to get, but also the ones in traffic and those make the difference,’’ Clifford said. “Hopefully he can maintain this, grow with it and be an every-night player.”

Biyombo said before the start of camp he didn’t feel marginalized by the signing of Jefferson or the drafting of forward-center Cody Zeller.

“You’ve always got to be ready,’’ said Biyombo, who the Bobcats chose seventh overall in the 2011 draft. “Each and every game you’ve got to make it count. I think we’re doing the best job with where we are. I can’t complain.

“I’m good at it. I’ve just got to stay with it,’’ Biyombo said of his rebounding. “I’ve got to make sure every night I play with that same intensity. I know it’s the preseason and people think that’s easy, but as a team, coming from past two seasons (a combined 28-120 record), we have to look at this a different way. We have to push ourselves.”

Cool School: The Bobcats are hosting their annual “Cool School’’ preseason game Thursday morning (versus the Philadelphia 76ers). Middle-school students from all around metropolitan Charlotte attend the game. One of the themes this year is an anti-bullying effort.

The game at Time Warner Cable Arena isn’t open to the general public. There’s no radio broadcast on WFNZ-AM 610, but Scott Lauer’s call will be live-streamed on bobcats.com.

Solid defense so far: The Bobcats have shot poorly in a 2-2 start to the preseason (38 percent from the field), but they’ve performed well defensively, holding opponents so far to 80.8 points and 38 percent shooting.

Clifford is encouraged by what he’s seen defensively, but he knows that hasn’t been tested against a long stretch of elite opponents.

“Our defense has been good because our team approach is great. It’s more attitude than anything,” Clifford said. “We’re doing a good job, but it’s hard to judge because we’re not getting 38 minutes (per game) of a Kyrie Irving.”

Notes: The Bobcats have taken nearly twice as many free throws as their opponents in the first four exhibitions (122-68). …Jefferson’s injury has caused Clifford to play Zeller more at center than he would otherwise. Clifford said there are advantages to playing Zeller at center alongside Josh McRoberts at power forward, so long as those two can keep up as rebounders. …With Jefferson out, the Bobcats are running less post-up offense and more pick-and-roll.

Rick Bonnell: (704) 358-5129 Twitter: @rick_bonnell
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