Tag: Bismack Biyombo

Houston Rockets Championship Anniversary Luncheon

Hakeem Olajuwon and Dikembe Mutombo make surprise appearances for Team Africa in NBA exhibition game (VIDEO)


A contingent of current and former NBA players have spent the past week in Johannesburg, South Africa as part of the league’s annual Basketball Without Borders clinic. But this year’s edition of the event is special in that it includes the NBA’s first-ever officially sanctioned exhibition game on the content of Africa. The game features a team of African NBA players including Luol Deng, Serge Ibaka and Bismack Biyombo against “Team World,” which features the likes of Chris Paul, Bradley Beal, Marcus Smart and the Gasol brothers.

Fans in South Africa got an extra surprise during the game on Saturday: two of the most legendary African players in NBA history, and two of the most important ambassadors for the sport in Africa, suited up along with the current players. Hall of Famer Hakeem Olajuwon and second all-time leading shot-blocker Dikembe Mutombo checked into the game in throwback Rockets and Nuggets jerseys, respectively:

Olajuwon scored on the Magic’s Nikola Vucevic using his patented “Dream Shake”:

And Mutombo got a stop against the Jazz’ Trey Burke:

NBA commissioner Adam Silver said this week that it’s only a matter of time until the NBA plays a regular-season game in Africa. This exhibition game is just the first step in that direction. But it was cool to see two legends in action alongside current players helping to grow the sport all over the world.

Raptors’ GM Masai Ujiri sees Bismack Biyombo as key part of roster transformation

Detroit Pistons v Charlotte Hornets

Raptors GM Masai Ujiri spent this summer transforming the Raptors roster — he went out and got some defense. That starts with adding DeMarre Carroll, who brings a needed lock-down guy on the perimeter to Toronto. But there were other moves, such as adding Corey Joseph, drafting Delon Wright, while letting guys like Lou Williams walk.

Then they added a big man and rim protector Bismack Biyombo to the roster. He will back up Jonas Valanciunas, but Biyombo gives coach Dwane Casey a guy who thinks defense and rebounding first.

Ujiri knew who he wanted and targeted Biyambo early in free agency.

“My agent let me know the teams that would be calling me and right after 12, it was like 12:03, I got a phone call from Masai,” Biyombo recalled on a conference call on Thursday touting the NBA exhibition game in Africa Saturday. “So I was asking myself if he was going to talk to me about the summer camps (in Africa) and stuff, or if it was just going to be about basketball. We talked about how my family was doing more than we talked about basketball.”

But they did get around to hoops and how Biyombo could help Toronto. Ujiri wants energy and for Biyombo to come in and be physical inside.

“He’s trying to figure it out in many ways, what his niche and his specialty can be in the NBA,” Ujiri said on the same conference call. “But what he does well now is offensive rebounding. He’s elite, blocking shots, offensive rebounding he’s elite.

“Defensive rebounding I think he’s going to get better and then as a defensive player, he’s really a solid defender. We needed more physicality with our team, a screen-setter, a roller, somebody that will always challenge, put a body on guys and that’s what Biyombo does.”

He wants Biyombo to be the counterbalance to the offensive-minded Valanciunas.

Biyombo said he agreed pretty quickly to a two-year, $5.8 million deal with the Raptors in part because of his relationship with Ujiri. He also recognized the opportunity. While in Africa Biyombo said he has worked with Hakeem Olajuwon (also over for the exhibition game) on his post moves and his free throw shooting. The more offense he can provide to go with that defense, the more run Biyombo likely gets.

He’s been in the league four years, but Biyombo is just 22 — there is still a lot of room for him to grow his game. But if he can bring some defense in the paint to a Raptors team that fell to bottom 10 in the NBA in defense last season — and was torched by the Wizards in the first round — then he will get time on the court to show that offensive improvement off.

NBA lands in Africa trying to put down roots, which is all about youth programs, infrastructure

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Under David Stern and now Adam Silver, the NBA has tried to grow its brand across the globe and establish itself as the world’s premier basketball league. That has meant games and outreach to Europe, China, South America, India and the Philippines.

Now the NBA has landed in Africa for the first-ever NBA game on that continent — a Team Africa vs. Team World exhibition featuring some of the biggest names in the league Saturday in Johannesburg, South Africa. Chris Paul, Luol Deng, and Marc Gasol will be there, as will be native Nigerians and NBA players Al-Farouq Aminu and Giannis Antetokounmpo. Twenty NBA players in all are taking part, along with coaches Gregg Popovich of the Spurs and Mike Budenholzer of the Atlanta Hawks.

“It’s incredible to see all these guys here,” said Raptors GM Masai Ujiri on a conference call Thursday.

“It’s an honor to be part of this,” said Bismack Biyombo, the new Raptors center and native of the Congo, on the same call. “Growing up here in Africa you watch an NBA game every now and then, or when someone had one recorded.”

Much of the talk about growing the sport in Africa has seemed to focus on the NBA brand — bringing an NBA preseason or maybe even regular season game to the continent. That’s a long ways away — Saturday’s exhibition will be in a 4,000-seat arena — but it’s a possibility.

“We’ve definitely had discussions, but they are elementary in some ways…” Ujiri said. “(The Raptors) would definitely be a team that would be very, very interested.”

The real test, however, is not bringing another NBA game to Africa, but finding ways to grow the sport at a grassroots level in Africa.

“The reason you see African nations (doing well internationally) in soccer — or football — now is that we played at a young age,” Ujiri noted. “You just had a ball and two rocks to be the goals, as I used to play growing up.”

Growing youth basketball will mean building infrastructure — in the USA we just expect to see even pocket parks in cities with a basketball hoop. They are ubiquitous, as are youth hoops programs. All of that is lacking in Africa, where soccer but not basketball is part of the culture.

“One thing to come out of this will be more camps, more clinics, more games, more youth competition, and from that you get into infrastructure, and building more courts,” Ujiri said, adding that what the NBA needs to help do is “coach the coaches” who will help teach the game.

“We’ve worked with kids the past few years here, and I worked with kids in the Congo the last few weeks, and the potential is here,” Biyombo said. “The problem we all have is we started playing basketball late. That’s why we’ve been trying to build courts around the country.”

The game Saturday is just one step in that direction, but exposing the youth of Africa to the highest levels of the game is a start. Now comes the hard part of building that youth infrastructure.

The words that kept coming up in everyone’s press conferences was the potential of the market and the youth in Africa.

“There is talent there,” Ujiri said of Africa. “It’s how this motivates them and the opportunities it creates for them.”

“I want (African youth) to use basketball as a way to gain an education because all of them are not going to make it to the NBA,” Biyombo said. “I want to show them they can reach their dream with a lot of hard work.”

“Africa is a continent with huge potential and many different levels,” said Pau Gasol, who also will take part in the game and spoke with the media Thursday. “It has a lot of struggles, but it’s worth investing the time and the effort and the energy to give this country and this continent a chance, and I think a lot of players are coming out and obviously have come out already, but there’s potential that a lot more younger players can come out and be ready and become great basketball players and have an opportunity to have a great life for themselves and their families.”

Raptors and Magic to play regular-season game in London

Toronto Raptors v Orlando Magic

Giannis Antetokounmpo brought a little life to last year’s London game by guaranteeing a Bucks win over the Knicks. (Milwaukee backed it up with a 95-79 victory.)

Will anyone spice up this year’s contest in London?

NBA release:

The Orlando Magic will return to London to play a regular-season game against the Toronto Raptors at The O2 on Jan. 14, 2016 as part of NBA Global Games 2015-16, it was announced today by the National Basketball Association (NBA) and Anschutz Entertainment Group (AEG).  This will mark the league’s sixth regular-season game in London.

This matchup isn’t as dreary on paper as last year’s, but these aren’t the NBA’s most exciting teams.

The Raptors have been good the last couple years, and they’ve recommitted to defense this offseason – adding DeMarre Carroll, Cory Joseph, Bismack Biyombo and Delon Wright. The Magic are trying to commit to defense in the first place, hiring Scott Skiles to coach a talented young roster.

If these teams have their way, this will probably be a low-scoring slugfest. Is that the brand of basketball the NBA wants to promote as it expands its reach to other continents?


Raptors coach Dwane Casey talks about shift to more defensive team in Toronto

DeMarre Carroll

It’s easy to forget because of the drama around the Rudy Gay trade and emergence of Kyle Lowry, but the Toronto Raptors were a top-10 defensive team in the 2013-14 season.

Last season, not so much. The Raptors finished 23rd in the NBA giving up 104.8 points per 100 possessions. They were 26th in opponent field goal percentage, 20th in opponent offensive rebounds allowed, and 19th in opponent assists allowed.

GM Massi Ujiri spent the summer trying to remake the Toronto roster into something better defensively — that started with landing free agent DeMarre Carroll, who gives them a quality perimeter defender (something Toronto lacked).

Raptors Coach Dwane Casey talked with John Schuhmann at NBA.com about the transition to more of a defensive-focused roster, starting with the pitch the team made to win Carroll over.

“We need you. You’re a defensive guy. We want to be a defensive team. We had been until last year. We moved from 30th [in defensive efficiency in 2010-11, the season before Casey was hired] to top 10, and then took a step back unwillingly. He’s a big part of us taking that next step. That was the pitch.”

How does Carroll change things?

“It’s going to help us, with the fact that DeMarre Carroll can guard his position. We’ve been getting by with Terrence Ross and DeMar DeRozan, who are really twos, playing the three and physically trying to go against bigger threes. Whether it’s been on the boards or guarding them, it’s been a challenge for those guys. I thought they did an admirable job two years ago, but it took a toll on us this past year, offensively and defensively. DeMarre gives us some size and physicality at that position.”

The Raptors, after a couple good regular seasons the last two years, have gotten slapped around in the playoffs. Carroll and the other roster changes — letting Lou Williams go, adding Bismack Biyombo — is an effort to put together a team that is better built for the playoffs.

Carroll is at the heart of that.

At the end of games, the trend is to go smaller. Threes are fours, fours are fives, and your roster has to fit that. Adding DeMarre gives us that flexibility. He can play some at the four, with Luis Scola or Patrick Patterson at the five. We’re better equipped to play that way now than we were a year ago.

The Raptors are going to win the Atlantic Division again, although looking at the roster it can bit a bit of a hollow victory. To take a significant step forward when it matters the Raptors will need a lot out of Lowry, and a lot more out of Jonas Valanciunas and the bench. Casey is a smart coach, with a season to figure it all out.