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Salutations Area 55ers.* Yeah, I know I’m getting you this late but hey, unlike a lot of you, I actually have a life and work for a living.
Anyway, our Pacers take the court again tonight at 7:30 P.M. for a quick home stand against the Charlotte Bobcats. *This will be the second game in back-to-backs for both teams.
Last night, Charlotte (now 2-5) fell in overtime against the Hawks.* Our Pacers (5-2) are coming home after a mammoth 87-74 away win over Boston.* The danger, of course, is that now our crew will now experience an emotional let-down, with the Bobcats then sneaking into our arena and stealing an upset win.
Our job is to do our best to ensure that that doesn’t happen.* We need to be extra-loud, extra-raucous, and extra-nasty tonight.
YELLOW-OUT: Remember that it’s Saturday — the day when everything in BLF is supposed to turn yellow.* Wear your yellow Area 55 Roy shirts and make sure that Section 101 looks like a massive field of saffron-colored humanity.
PTO FUN! As usual, I’ve heard nothing from PTO President Brickyard about the time for the pre-game boozing and shmoozing.* My guess is that there will be the usual cast of reprobates on hand as early 3:00 P.M. in the Parking Lot on South Street across from Arby’s.* My check on the weather indicates more balminess so I envision another stellar turnout.* Hell, maybe we’ll even have some food.* Who knows?
JANUARY TIX PICKUP:* Esteemed Pacers Marketing Suit Alan Mowry reports that January’s Area 55 tickets will be ready for pick up starting Saturday at 4:45 P.M. at the Entry Pavilion at the Fieldhouse.* If you don’t get them by 6:00 P.M. at a table set up by the practice court windows, Alan says he will leave them for you at Will Call.
PREGAME WORKOUT VIEWING OF ROY: Also, at 5:00 PM Area 55ers will get the to meet with Roy and watch him tune up for the Bobcats.* To do this, we will meet at the Entry Pavilion (after grabbing our January tickets) and then be escorted courtside to watch Roy and the other Pacers warm-up.* Roy supposedly will come by after the workout to say hello to us.* At 6:00 PM we can then take out seats and kill an hour or so in 101 or adjourn to beer vendors strategically located in various spots in the arena and complete the inebriation process.
A nickname for Charlotte (“The Hornet’s Nest”) derives from the*Revolutionary War, when British commander, *Lord Cornwallis occupied the city but was driven out by hostile residents.* This prompted him to describe Charlotte as “a*hornet’s nest of rebellion.” This lead in turn to the Charlotte Hornets, who then moved to New Orleans to become the New Orleans Hornets, etc. etc.
Who, you ask, is Bismack “B-Smack” Biyombo?* Well, depending on which NBA pundit it is that you talk to, he may be:
(1) The second coming of Hakeem Olajuwon (i.e., the greatest thing since sliced bread!);
(2) The second coming of Ben Wallace (i.e., that day-old bread your mom uses to make French toast); or
(3) The second coming of Mouhammed Saer Sene (i.e., that bluish-green loaf in your breadbox that you might just want to throw away).
You don’t remember Mouhammed Sene?* Well, FYI, he was a Senegalese ball-player with a 7’8 1/2” “wingspan” drafted 10th by Seattle in the 2006 draft pick (just ahead of J. J. Reddick).* He is widely considered to be one of the worst selections ever made.
So let’s look at Bismack “B-Smack” Biyombo!
Bismack was the 7th overall pick in the 2011 NBA Draft by the Sacramento Kings.* He ultimately wound up in Charlotte after the Bobcats’ owner, His Airness, Michael Jordan, inked him to a contract after a 3-team deal that, among other things, sent former Bobcat standouts Stephen Jackson and Shaun Livingston to the Bucks and the Bucks’ Cory Maggette to the Bobcats.
Since arriving this season in Charlotte, Bismack has been getting around 10-15 minutes of playing time a night.* He’s 6’9” in height and weighs in at 243.* He’s long, athletic, and reportedly has the wingspan of someone who’s 7’ 7”.* He comes to the Bobcats with a fuzzy resume and after a series globe-trekking pro basketball adventures.
Nobody’s really sure exactly how old Bismack is.* Bismack himself claims that he was born on August 28, 1992.* That would make him 19 and the youngest player in the NBA.* However a lot of people – mostly wizened old NBA scouts – say he’s older than that.* In researching Bismack, I found age estimates for him ranging everywhere from 20 to 24. *Not a geezer, but not a young pup either.
Apparently, African birth certificates are often of shaky authenticity.* Usually they’re in the form of affidavits executed years after the fact by relatives and midwives trying to recall the date of the blessed birth event. Birth records emanating from the Congo, where Bismack was born, are no exception.
Also, in the hyped world of international basketball, it’s always better to be a younger person than an older one.* Having a birth document that says you are 16 instead of 28 lets you play in a lot of youth tournaments that you might otherwise not legally qualify for.
Bismarck’s official autobiography is intriguing in other ways. He is reportedly the oldest of seven brothers and sisters and hails from the city of Lubumbashi. He supposedly began playing basketball at age 9 and then turned pro (at age 14), while still living in the Congo.
At 16, Bismack reportedly decided to leave his home country (supposedly over his parents’ vehement objections) in order to play for another professional team based in Qatar. On his way there, he stopped in Yemen for a week, purportedly to get a visa.* Once Yemeni basketball officials there heard Bismack was in town, they offered to let him practice with a local team. (See, although only 16, Bismack “possessed the body of a full grown man and already had the athleticism of an NBA player”). *Anyway, within a week, a local Yemeni team offered him a contract and Bismack began playing Yemeni professional basketball.
“It’s very different from the rest of the world,” Biyombo said. “I knew nobody. I was still very young. Moving away from my family was a little difficult for me. On the other hand, it was something I really wanted to do. It was something I loved.”
Bismack’s life took another big turn when he traveled with his Yemeni team to a tournament in Jordan. There he happened to meet former Jordanian and Angolan national team coach, Mario Palma. Palma was impressed with Bismack’s ability and maturity.** Bismack asked Palma to help him get into a better league.
“He came to talk to me and asked for help,” Palma told FIBA.com. “He said he wanted to play at a high level. Initially, I thought of sending him to Angola, where I have some contacts, so he could progress there. I thought of Angola because of the cultural proximity to his country of origin. Then I contacted someone in Spain [agent Igor Crespo] and everything started from there. It was the right choice.”
In June 2009, Bismack left Yemen for Spain without any kind of a contract. But he did have workouts, arranged by Crespo, with a number of the top teams in Spain.
“A lot of teams came to watch me practice,” Biyombo says. “No one was interested, I tell you.* After many weeks, finally a team [Fuenlabrada] came and offered me a shot at their junior team. They told me if I played well I could then play fourth division. Then, in a couple of years, third division. Maybe someday I can play in the ACB (the preeminent pro basketball league in Spain).. I said, no problem, I’ll take it.”
Bismack began playing for Fuenlabrada’s junior team, but wasn’t satisfied with the competition. He called the coach of the third-division team and asked whether he could practice with that team as well.
“The coach came up to me right after practice and told me, ‘You are not going to play anymore with the junior team. You are going to skip the fourth division. You are going to play with me,’”
The next year, Bismack ended up playing for both the third- and fourth-division teams. On Saturdays, he played third-division games and on Sundays, fourth-division. To keep up with both teams, he sometimes had to practice four times a day.
At the start of the 2010-11 season, Bismack was still on the third-division team in Spain. However, one month into the season, he moved up to the second division. He then began practicing with the first division as well.* His defense in practice against Esteban Batista, supposedly one of the best centers in Europe, wowed the coaching staff. Accordingly, when Fuenlabrada got a huge offer for Batista from Caja Laboral, the team decided to pull the trigger, let Batista go, and replace him with Bismack.
“After Batista left, the coach says to me, ‘You know what, we don’t care if Batista leaves. We have you, and you can help us,’” Biyombo said.
Biyombo then became a starter in the ACB. In his first game he played 13 minutes, finishing with five points, seven rebounds and a block. After two more games, his coach told him that he could stay with the team for the rest of the season (all of 14 games). Within two months, a number of NBA scouts were monitoring his play.
Thus, Bismack wound up playing 14 games for Fuenlabrada in 2010-11.* During this time he averaged 6.4 points on 56 percent shooting, 5.1 rebounds and 2.3 blocks while playing 17 minutes a game.
Rich Sheubrooks, who worked for Nike, spotted Bismack while playing for Fuenlabrada in Spain and offered him a shot on the Hoop Summit World team. On the World Team Bismack reportedly “wowed everyone with his toughness, athleticism, and shot-blocking.”
In the his team played with Team USA, Biyombo dominated on the defensive end, finishing with 12 points, 11 rebounds and 10 blocks in 28 minutes work. It was the first triple-double in the history of the Hoop Summit (a tournament supposedly for 19 year olds and under).
“When I walked away, I felt proud of myself,” Biyombo said. “I put everything on the floor. I played very hard. I did good things on the floor.
The triple double sparked NBA interest. In a draft without a lot of players with big upside, Bismack was seen as “intriguing.” A week after Bismack’s feat, Scouts Inc.’s David Thorpe argued that “he could be the No.1 pick in the draft!”
Thus, in approximately six months, Bismack Biyombo came from being an obscure, third-division big man in Spain to a first-round lottery pick in the NBA draft, touted as a new Serge Ibaka, and as a *potential solution to the front-line woes that have plagued the Bobcats. *The term “meteoric rise,” when ascribed to him, is thus something of an understatement.
Whether Bismack comes to fulfill the expectations accompanying this rise remains to be seen.* There has traditionally been a lot of NBA over-enthusiasm for untried, but highly touted players from Africa.* Although there have been exceptions (and Serge Ibaka’s No. 24 pick by Seattle in the 2008 is one), most NBA flyers taken on raw African players have not panned out very well. Consider Yinka Dare (No. 14, 1994), Michael Olowokandi (No. 1, 1998) and DeSagana Diop (No. 8, 2001).
Furthermore, are Bismack’s credentials, taken in context, really all that great?* His triple double at the Hoop Summit* — which sparked* so much NBA interest — came against incoming U.S. college freshmen and not against the likes of NBA starters.* Also his numbers during the 14 games with his Spanish team, while respectable, were hardly awe-inspiring.* Some of his pre-draft workouts were underwhelming.* One was described by an NBA scout as “Clang. Clang. Clang.” **A GM described another of his workouts this way: “Bismack Biyombo just played a game of one-on-none … and he lost.”
Anyway, tonight we’ll get to see Bismack and find out if all there’s something substantial to all the acclaim surrounding him. *I am looking for Roy to swat him.