Bismack Biyombo gets LaMelo Ball ‘like my little brother’

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Nobody has taken LaMelo Ball’s winding path to the NBA, from undefeated high school teams in Chino Hills to Lithuania then through Australia.

Hornets center Bismack Biyombo relates as well as anyone; he had his own unique, winding path to the league. Born in Lubumbashi in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (a struggling copper mining town), Biyombo traveled with friends to play professionally for the first time in Yemen, and then ended up in Spain before grabbing scouts’ attention at the 2011 Hoops Summit in Portland.

“I was telling LaMelo when I first got to the league I was his age because I came from overseas as well,” Biyombo said. “The transition, how far you grow from playing overseas versus when you see kids who come out of college, it’s totally two different mindsets.”

That shared uncharted path helped Biyombo — the veteran NBA big man in his 11th season — become the mentor and friend a player like LaMelo needs to learn how to navigate and thrive in the NBA.

“I’m talking and showing some film and those two are behind me hugging, arms around each other,” Hornets coach James Borrego said recently. “I love what I’m seeing there: The partnership, the mentorship. That’s huge for LaMelo and his growth.”

“It has been a joy to see the whole process happening,” Biyombo said. “[Our young players] leaning on you, asking for information and questions, and being able to help the coach, I think overall it has been fun, helping the coach, the organization head in the direction we push for.”

It’s been a fast friendship between the confident rookie and the worldly veteran, despite the fact some in the NBA Twitterverse thought there was friction between them after they had a little play fight following a Hornets win last month.

“LaMelo is like my little brother,” Biyambo told NBC Sports, adding the pair laughed about the video and reaction. “From the first day when he get here, we never had to force anything. It’s funny because, whenever people talking about us… people don’t see the real story behind it and how far we go back. We always joke. And at the end of the day, the media’s job is to get the story out there, and our job is not to give them a story. But obviously, in that situation, we did give them the story.”

Biyombo thrives in the mentor role; he played it last season in Charlotte with Malik Monk, who is in the midst of his best season as a pro right now. Because Biyombo has been the 19-year-old searching for his NBA path — leaning on Boris Diaw and others as mentors — he knows not to force anything. He just lets it come naturally.

“As far as being a leader, you don’t want to push people to listen to you or to do certain things,” Biyombo said. “When they need questions answered, they know where to ask it. When they need somebody to lean on, they know where to find it. One thing we have done a good job with overall, they know that I’m there. They know if they have questions, I’m there.

“They also know that I’m always going to keep it 100. I’m always going to tell them the truth about a situation I see, what I hear. I think that’s how you build a better relationship far beyond basketball.”

Biyombo’s mentoring does not stop when practice ends. Or with LaMelo.

He has five younger siblings — the youngest of which is still in high school — and all of them are with him in Charlotte. His parents are still back in the DRC, but his siblings are all here with him now finding their path to a better life. Biyombo said having them near him through the pandemic has been a “blessing.”

“The story is my mom and dad being able to trust me to help them become what they want to become in the future,” Biyombo said. “I think it’s only the right thing to do for me, because, as I have grown and succeed in life, I look at families where [people say] ‘I’m the only one who succeeded, I’m the only one who made it.’ But I’ve always wanted to make sure that as I succeed in life, my family also succeeds in whatever they want to become.

“My dad has done that for his brothers and I got to learn from him. And them allowing me to be the parent, the big brother, the mentor all at once, all that stuff, it’s overwhelming. I think they’re all doing great.”

One of the key areas Biyombo mentors young NBA players is talking to them about their diet — 19-year-olds can subsist on pizza and Taco Bell, but that’s a bad habit for a professional athlete thinking about a long career.

Biyombo, like a growing number of NBA players — Chris Paul, JaVale McGee, DeAndre Jordan, and others — follows a strict diet that is largely plant-based and includes intermittent fasting, eating on a schedule he says lets his body digest food without feeling bloated.

Of course, he has his cheat days.

“My cheat day the other day was fish with a lot of vegetables,” Biyombo joked. “I showed the picture to my trainer and he said, ‘that’s a healthy day for a lot of us.’ It’s a habit, and I’ve built good habits over time.”

Again, Biyombo had mentors when he entered the league — on diet, it was Hall of Famer Ray Allen.

“When I got in the league, Ray Allen came up and talked about his diet and everybody said, ‘this guy is crazy,’” Biyombo said. “But now what people are eating is far beyond what Ray Allen was eating, what back then was crazy. It’s a lot more information, number one. And number two, a lot more people are evolving into the diet and what you eat and all these things, so I think it’s just having access to more information now. People are more educated on it.”

The key for Biyombo is not forcing his diet and lifestyle on LaMelo or other young players; it’s more leading by example. But young players in the NBA quickly learn a diet of fried wings and burgers is not going to work.

“A lot of our young guys have made a lot of adjustments. I don’t think it’s just me, I think it’s them understanding as professional athletes, your body, it’s a must to take care of,” Biyombo said. “You’ve got to put in it good fuel; you can’t just feed it whatever.

“It’s 72 games this season, it’s 82 games most seasons, it’s not 50 games (like college or overseas). So for them it’s understanding what you need to put into your body and how to take care of your body — after games icing, stretching, all these treatments, massage — they have learned over the course of time. They are sometimes you catch them eating things they are not supposed to eat, and I tell them. Then the next day they tell you they ate something better, they tell you ‘I had this last night, can you believe it’ so overall it’s fun…

“When I started my diet it was just for me, but it’s far beyond my teammates. Now I get a lot of messages from people I don’t even know asking about my diet,” Biyombo said. “But it has changed my life. I feel good. I feel energetic, I enjoy this.”

And he is enjoying his time in Charlotte, with a team exceeding expectations and now with legitimate playoff dreams.

The postseason is just one more area where Biyombo looks forward to mentoring his newfound “little brother.”

USA Basketball to host to Puerto Rico in World Cup tuneup in Las Vegas

Golden State Warriors v Sacramento Kings
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USA Basketball has finalized its schedule of exhibition games leading into this summer’s FIBA World Cup, announcing Tuesday that it will open the five-game slate against Puerto Rico in Las Vegas on Aug. 7.

It will be the only World Cup warmup game in the U.S. for the Americans, a team that will be coached by Golden State’s Steve Kerr. His assistants are Miami’s Erik Spoelstra, the Los Angeles Clippers’ Tyronn Lue and Gonzaga’s Mark Few.

The roster of NBA players is still being assembled.

“Puerto Rico, obviously, we’re familiar with them,” said Grant Hill, managing director of USA Basketball’s men’s national team. “We’ve competed in the World Cup qualifiers, although neither team had their full heavy roster, if you will, its strongest roster. But it’s an opportunity to throw our guys into the fire. The games, the exhibition games, the lead-up, we’re going to get a lot of basketball in us before we play for real. And that’s good.”

After the Puerto Rico game, the U.S. will leave for Malaga, Spain, and games there against Slovenia on Aug. 12 and Spain on Aug. 13. The final two pre-World Cup games for the Americans will be held in Abu Dhabi, against Greece on Aug. 18 and Germany on Aug. 20.

From there, the Americans head to Manila, Philippines, where they will remain for the entirety of the World Cup. Half of the 32-team World Cup field will have group-stage games in Indonesia or Japan; the Americans are among the 16 that will open the tournament in the Philippines, which will also play host to the medal rounds.

The game against Puerto Rico will coincide with the end of the U.S. team’s training camp in Las Vegas.

“Our preparations for the 2023 FIBA Men’s World Cup begin in Las Vegas and we are excited to return to a city that regularly and graciously welcomes USA Basketball,” said Jim Tooley, USA Basketball’s CEO.

The men’s national team played four exhibitions in Las Vegas in 2021 before the Tokyo Olympics, going 2-2 in those games. The Americans opened with losses to Nigeria and Australia before beating Argentina and Spain prior to departing for Tokyo.

“The Nigeria game was important,” Hill said. “It let everybody know that we can’t just show up.”

In Japan, the U.S. won its fourth consecutive Olympic gold medal.

The U.S. opens World Cup play against New Zealand on Aug. 26, followed by group games against Greece on Aug. 28 and Jordan on Aug. 30. The tournament – one of the major qualifiers for the 2024 Paris Olympics – runs through Sept. 10.

Bob Myers stepping down as Warriors president, GM

2022 Golden State Warriors Victory Parade & Rally
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The architect of the four-time NBA champion Golden State Warriors, the former agent turned two-time Executive of the Year Bob Myers is stepping away from the franchise.

This had been rumored all season and Myers confirmed it to Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN prior to Myers’ formal press conference Tuesday afternoon.

“It’s just time,” Myers told ESPN.

Warriors ownership wanted to keep Myers on board and reportedly made generous contract offers to retain him, but Myers just wanted to back away from the job.

Myers took over a Warriors franchise in 2012 that had already drafted Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson, but was still being led on the court by Monta Ellis and David Lee. Myers drafted Draymond Green (in the second round), eventually traded for Andre Iguodala, built out the roster, fired Mark Jackson and replaced him with Steve Kerr, and generally built a championship team. When that team fell short in 2016 — and boosted by a one-time spike in the salary cap due to a new television deal — Myers brought in Kevin Durant to form one of the best, most dominant teams the NBA had seen, and they won two more titles. After Durant left and due to some brutal injuries, the Warriors stumbled for a few years, but in 2022 found their footing again and won a fourth ring. Myers helped guild all of that.

It is expected Mike Dunleavy Jr. — the No. 2 man in a Warriors front office that values a lot of input from different voices and isn’t classically hierarchical — will take over as the man in charge. Wojnarowski reports that Kirk Lacob, son of owner Joe Lacob, also is expected to have an expanded role.

This changeover comes at a critical time for the Warriors (and adds to the end-of-an-era feeling), heading into an important offseason for the franchise. Green is expected to opt out of his $27.5 million contract for next season and is looking for the security of more years — and this past season showed the Warriors cannot win at a high level without him. However, the Warriors will want him back at a lower figure than that $27.5 million per year. Klay Thompson is set to make $43.2 million next season and is extension eligible, but he is not a max player anymore and the Warriors will want those future years at a much lower price. Then there is Jordan Poole‘s extension kicking in — at $28.7 million — after a down season. The tension following Green punching Poole tainted the entire Warriors’ season, and there is a lot of speculation around the league Poole could be traded.

Myers built strong relationships with the Warriors’ players, and he would have been better positioned to talk to Green and Thompson about sacrifice to keep the team together. That is a tougher sell for Dunleavy.

Don’t expect Myers to jump straight into another NBA job — although offers will come to him fast — he is expected to take a year or more and step back from the game before deciding his next move.

Heat’s Tyler Herro reportedly targeting Game 3 return during Finals


Tyler Herro fractured his hand just before halftime of Game 1 against the Milwaukee Bucks, and following his ensuing surgery the target timeline was he could be back for the NBA Finals. That led to a lot of “good luck with that” comments on social media (not to mention comments about his sideline fits).

The No. 8 seed Miami Heat are on to the NBA Finals, and Herro hopes to return to the court when Miami returns home for Game 3, reports Chris Haynes of Bleacher Report and TNT.

Maybe he returns, perhaps that is optimistic (Game 3 is Wednesday, June 7). Herro is still feeling pain in his right hand, he told reporters after the game.

Herro averaged 20.1 points, 5.4 rebounds and 4.2 assists a game for the Heat this season, shooting 37.8% from 3. He was the team’s secondary shot creator after Jimmy Butler, a guy counted on to jumpstart the offense at points.

If he returns, Erik Spoelstra has to return him to the sixth-man role where he thrived a season ago. The starting lineup without him was better defensively, and with the emergence of Caleb Martin and Gabe Vincent, the Heat don’t need the offensive spark with that first group (less Herro has meant more Jimmy Butler with the ball, and that’s a good thing). The second unit could use the offensive spark Herro brings.

It’s something to watch as the Heat return to the NBA Finals for the first time since the bubble, this time facing the formidable Denver Nuggets.

Three takeaways from Heat playing with intent, beating Celtics in Game 7


Is there a more Miami Heat way to win a series than going on the road and ripping the heart out of Boston fans in their own building in a Game 7?

Is there a more fitting way for this era of Celtics to lose this series than to play poorly until their backs are against the wall, then flip the switch and look like the best team in the NBA, only to not quite get all the way there?

In those ways the Eastern Conference Finals worked out the way it should have, with the Miami Heat taking charge of Game 7 in the first quarter and never looking back. The Heat beat the Celtics 103-84 to advance to the NBA Finals (which start Thursday in Denver).

Here are three takeaways from Game 7.

1) Caleb Martin embodied the difference in this series

Jimmy Butler was officially voted MVP of the Conference Finals. He averaged 24.2 points, 7.7 rebounds and 6.2 assists per game through the series, numbers that are hard to argue. He is the best player on the team.

However, he won in a tight 5-4 vote over Caleb Martin — who had 26 points and 10 rebounds in Game 7, but more than that embodied the difference in this series. Martin played with intention, focus, and with a commitment to the system every night in a way the Celtics don’t do consistently. Martin, a guy waived by the Hornets in the summer of 2021, has had to scrap and fight for everything he’s gotten in the league, and with that comes a hardened edge.

“To the untrained eye, he just looks like he’s an undrafted guy who has been in the G League, who has started with Charlotte and now he’s here,” Butler said of Martin. “Started on a two-way contract. That’s what it looks like to y’all. To us, he’s a hell of a player, hell of a defender, playmaker, shotmaker, all of the above. Everybody [on the team] has seen Caleb work on those shots day in, day out. It doesn’t surprise us. We have seen it every single day. I’m so proud and happy for him.”

Martin’s shotmaking also embodied why the Heat won — they were simply better at getting and hitting the shots they wanted all series long. It was historic shotmaking.

Bam Adebayo had another rough offensive outing — 12 points on 4-of-10 shooting with a lot of good looks missed — but his defense was stellar and that was reflected in his +22 on the night, the best of any starter on the team. He remains vital to what they do.

2) Jayson Tatum‘s rolled ankle proved too much for Celtics

The Celtics didn’t lose this series because Jayson Tatum rolled his ankle on the game’s first play.

They lost this series because when they went down 0-3 in the series they left themselves no margin for error — everything had to go perfectly. It never does, just ask the other 150 teams in NBA history to go down 0-3 in a series. Tatum went on to score 14 points, but he admitted he was a shell of himself.

The Celtics needed to collectively make up for Tatum being slowed (much the way the Heat’s role players such as Gabe Vincent stepped up with Tyler Herro out).

Jaylen Brown didn’t, he ended up shooting 8-of-23 for 19 points, but with eight turnovers. Derrick White had 18 and was the best Celtic in Game 7. Malcolm Brogdon tried but could not play through an elbow injury he may need off-season surgery on (and coach Joe Mazzulla stuck with him a little too long).

The bigger problem was Boston was 9-of-42 (21.4%) on 3-pointers. Miami leaned into their zone defense (which allowed them to keep Duncan Robinson on the floor) and while the Celtics did a better job of getting into the middle of that zone, but they still needed to knock down shots over the top of it. They failed.

When the Celtics’ shots aren’t falling it bleeds into the other aspects of their game — the defensive lapses come, the mental focus goes in and out. Consistency is not a hallmark of these Celtics.

We’ll get into Boston’s future in the next couple of days, they should and will re-sign Jaylen Brown and make another run, but this core needs to look at itself in the mirror and figure out why it can’t play closer to its peak nightly.

3) The Heat are the life lesson you want to teach

As a parent, there are a lot of life lessons you try to pass on to your children, although you eventually realize that it’s more about what you show them day-to-day than what you say in any moment that really resonates.

One thing I want to show my daughters, what I want for them is to be resilient like this Miami team — a group that took a punch to the gut in Game 6, stumbled, got up off the ground, shook off the dust, and came back with more resolve and focus.

“I think probably people can relate to this team,” Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said after his team advanced. “Life is hard. Professional sports is just kind of a reflection sometimes of life, that things don’t always go your way. The inevitable setbacks happen and it’s how you deal with that collectively. There’s a lot of different ways that it can go. It can sap your spirit. It can take a team down for whatever reason. With this group, it’s steeled us and made us closer and made us tougher.

“These are lessons that hopefully we can pass along to our children, that you can develop this fortitude. And sometimes you have to suffer for the things that you want. Game 6, the only thing that we can do is sometimes you have to laugh at the things that make you cry…

“We have some incredible competitors in that locker room. They love the challenge. They love putting themselves out there in front of everybody. Open to criticism. Open to everything. But to compete for it, and that’s a beautiful thing.”

They did compete harder than the team in Green across from them, and that’s why Miami tips off in the NBA Finals on Thursday night.