Bismack Biyombo, after losing starting job and nearly half his minutes, happily helping Hornets


BOSTON – If you want to get Bismack Biyombo to light up, talk to him about going from a starter in 2012-13 to a reserve with his playing time nearly halved in 2013-14.

“It’s actually one of the best things that ever happened to me,” Biyombo said.

Biyombo watched the game from a different perspective. He learned to appreciate just being in the NBA. And he read more.

One of the books he picked up, on a recommendation from Ronny Turiaf, was “The Four Agreements: A Practical Guide to Personal Freedom.” Biyombo said a key theme was exposing a cycle of passive learning.

“Kids growing up the way they grow up, it’s just the same thing over and over. There’s no changes,” Biyombo said. “They don’t let you make mistakes in life, to find out yourself what life is about. They tell you to listen to old people, because they know better than you, but you don’t know any better. You never learn to know better.

“As we grow up, we go to school. They tell us this is a pen, and you know it’s a pen. But nobody lets you find out that it is a pen. Nobody lets you find out that a cell phone is a cell phone. They’ve got to tell you this is a cell phone. So, it’s over and over, generation after generation.”

After generations of basketball thinkers viewing the game similarly, we’re in a new era of analysis with advanced stats and easily accessible video. The NBA is more curious than ever.

Biyombo could benefit more than most.

At face value, Biyombo – the No. 7 pick in the 2011 draft – is a bust. A good indicator is the amount of faith his own team has in him, and Charlotte gave Biyombo just 13.9 minutes per game last season and 16.3 so far this season, his fourth. Most players drafted so high get every opportunity to succeed and develop, but Biyombo has not engendered more playing time.

Since the NBA instituted rookie-scale contracts, the only players drafted so highly to play fewer than 20 minutes per game in both their third and fourth seasons (or what would have been if not dropped sooner) of their rookie deals were: Jan Vesely, Ekpe Udoh, Hasheem Thabeet, Jonny Flynn, Greg Oden, Adam Morrison, Shelden Williams, Jay Williams, Nikoloz Tskitishvili, Dajuan Wagner, DerMarr Johnson, Chris Mihm and Robert Traylor. Whether due to poor play, injury or both, players in this situation rarely go onto lengthy NBA careers.

Can Biyombo buck the trend?

This is where the NBA’s evolving methods of analysis come in.

Biyombo leads the Hornets – a 15-24 team that has been outscored by 115 points this season – with a plus-minus of +52.


Before Charlotte beat the Knicks by 28 in its last game – pushing its win streak to five games, all with Biyombo starting for an injured Al Jefferson – Biyombo was the team’s only rotation player with a positive plus-minus.

“He’s very bright,” Hornets coach Steve Clifford said. “The reason why his plus-minus is so good is he does what we do. He knows what’s supposed to happen, and he actually helps other guys play, too.”

Biyombo strengths and weaknesses each fall on extreme ends of the spectrum. Of the 251 players who have played as much as him this season, Biyombo ranks:

  • 2nd in block percentage (behind Rudy Gobert)
  • 7th in rebounding percentage (behind Andre Drummond, DeAndre Jordan, Tyson Chandler, Omer Asik, DeMarcus Cousins and Zach Randolph)
  • 11th in field-goal percentage (behind Brandan Wright, DeAndre Jordan, Tyson Chandler, Rudy Gobert, Ed Davis, James Johnson, Tyler Zeller, Mason Plumlee, Dwight Howard and Amir Johnson)
  • 240th in free-throw percentage (ahead of Rajon Rondo, DeAndre Jordan, Andre Drummond, Josh Smith, Andre Roberson, Elfrid Payton, Nerlens Noel, Mason Plumlee, Dwight Howard, Miles Plumlee and Larry Sanders)
  • 246th in usage percentage (ahead of Andre Roberson,Miles Plumlee,DeAndre Jordan,Joe Ingles andJason Thompson)
  • 236th in turnover percentage (ahead of Kendrick Perkins, Shabazz Napier, Rajon Rondo, Samuel Dalembert, Andrew Bogut, Shaun Livingston, Zach LaVine, Elfrid Payton, Steve Blake,  Joe Ingles, Michael Carter-Williams, Zaza Pachulia, Kostas Papanikolaou, Pablo Prigioni and Evan Turner)
  • 251st in assist percentage

Essentially, Biyombo makes the most of his 7-foot-6 wingspan and impressive athleticism where he can. Anything that involves him skillfully using hands becomes more troublesome.

He does little things – setting good screens and rotating properly defensively are two Clifford pointed out – that don’t show up in the box score. When I watched him play, I noticed him frequently moving back and forth from one side of the paint to the other to avoid clogging any driving lanes. That energy helps, considering Biyombo – who has never made a shot beyond 17 feet in his career – can’t space the floor traditionally. I’m not saying Biyombo’s plus-minus makes him Charlotte’s best player or even good, but it’s a number that should encourage closer inspection of his game.

Perhaps, Biyombo is bound to fill a limited role the rest of his career. The right team could certainly put him in position to succeed with these skills.

But don’t completely discount the possibility of Biyombo developing into a more well-rounded player.

He’s still just 22, the second-youngest player in his draft class (behind only No. 46 pick Davis Bertans, who has yet to play in the NBA and whose rights are held by the Spurs). In fact, Biyombo is younger than a third of the players selected in the most recent draft, including first rounders Doug McDermott, Adreian Payne, Mitch McGary, Shabazz Napier, Bogdan Bogdanovic, C.J. Wilcox and Josh Huestis.

Heck, it’s even possible Biyombo tries to make that next step in Charlotte. But it seems unlikely with Jefferson around. Neither shoot well enough to space the floor, and they’ve yet to share the court since Jefferson joined the team.

The Hornets can extend Biyombo a qualifying offer this summer to make him a free agent. That’ll cost them $4,045,894 – or, if Biyombo somehow plays 2,000 minutes or starts 41 times this season, $5,194,227. Really, Biyombo continuing to play such a limited role – he’ll surely return to the bench once Jefferson gets healthy – might help him next offseason. The qualifying offer, which Charlotte is more likely to extend if it’s lower, wouldn’t be a bad salary for the big man.

Until then, he seems happy in his current situation.

Another book Biyombo read last season was “La Buena Suerte.” A theme of that one, written in Spanish (Biyombo speaks five languages), as described by Biyombo:

“Make your own luck,” Biyombo said. “Go after what you want. Know what you want, and do what you really want. And obviously, when you’re finished, whatever you’ve done, don’t have any regrets.”

Biyombo said he wants to play basketball as long as he can and win an NBA title. How long will he last in the league? Will he help a contender?

It really depends what teams see for themselves when they look at Biyombo.

Report: Denver Nuggets nearing deal to send Nate Robinson back to Boston for Jameer Nelson


Nate Robinson played 81 games for the Celtics in 2010 and 2011, having some big playoff moments along side Glen Davis — Shrek and Donkey — and becoming a fan favorite. Which happens everywhere he lands.

It’s just not the same with the coaches, so Robinson lands a lot of places.

Robinson appears to be on the move again, soon heading back to Boston from Denver, reports Marc Spears of Yahoo Sports, with Adrian Wojnarowski adding details..

There has to be a pick going to Boston as well — and Celtics GM Danny Ainge is collecting those — because Jameer Nelson is a better player than Robinson.

The Celtics may buy Robinson out, Sam Amick of the USA Today reports.

Robinson, at age 30 and coming off an ACL injury last year, has struggled this season in Denver. He is playing barely 14 minutes a game and is shooting just 34.9 percent. He was an energetic scorer off the bench but there are questions about if the ACL injury took away the athletic edge he needed. He’s never brought much defense to the table.

Jameer Nelson was a solid pick-and-roll point guard who also is struggling this season. He started the season with the Mavericks but was sent to Boston as part of the Rajon Rondo trade. There he is shooting just 22 percent for Celtics. Denver may feel that a change of scenery will help his play in the short term.

Clearly Denver has decided that they are not making the playoffs out West and it’s time to switch up this roster — Timofey Mozgov is now in Cleveland, Wilson Chandler is getting shopped, and now Robinson is on his way out the door. The Nuggets are going into rebuild mode.

Which is where the Celtics already are, but apparently they’d consider one more go around with Robinson.

Carmelo Anthony believes he can trump Knicks’ 5-35 record in selling free agents


If the NBA salary cap lands where projected and the Knicks get the No. 4 pick in the draft and renounce all their free agents, they’d have $25,434,111 in cap room.

That’s plenty to land a max player and another solid piece.

*The NBA’s worst team has a 35.7 percent chance of receiving the No. 4 pick in the lottery, making the fourth selection more likely than No. 1 (25.0 percent chance), No. 2 (21.5) or No. 3 (17.8).

At different times, the Knicks have been linked to many of the top 2015 free agents.

They’ll pursue Marc Gasol – and Pau Gasol even said they have a chancebut they know that’s a longshot. Rajon Rondo has been a long-rumored target, but he’ll likely stay in Dallas. Goran Dragic said he’d consider the Knicks. Reggie Jackson could be a target. Tobias Harris might be interested, and he’d reportedly get a Nike bonus if he plays for New York.

If you really want to get crazy, Kevin Love, Dwyane Wade and even LeBron James could opt out and explore free agency this summer. Love’s loyalty to the Cavaliers is unclear (to be fair he hasn’t had an opportunity yet to prove it), and Phil Jackson pursued the forward in a trade last offseason. Why not try again this summer? Wade was once a New York target, and so was LeBron as recently as last year.

The Knicks play in a market where they can get their foot in the door with the biggest free agents.

But they’re also 5-35, a record that certainly won’t entice anyone credible.

Will New York overcome its on-court struggles in the marketplace? Carmelo Anthony says he’s up for the challenge.

Ian Begley of ESPN:

The problem is Melo is a key reason the Knicks are 5-35.

He’s struggling on the court, at least relative to his usual standards, as he delays knee surgery. Free agents should wonder how much long-term physical damage a 30-year-old Melo is doing now.

There are also the old concerns about Melo’s ability to help his team win given his lack of defense and passing. I think those issues are overblown, especially in recent seasons as Melo has expanded his game and increase his energy level. But, yes, free agents should consider all that, too.

There’s also Melo’s huge contract, which could inhibit the Knicks’ ability to further upgrade the roster. This team is not only one star away from title contention.

And Melo is probably the best thing the Knicks have going other than a draft pick that has yet to arrive.

Tim Hardaway Jr. has regressed. Iman Shumpert is gone. Derek Fisher looks in over his head. Phil Jackson is no immediate savior.

It’s not impossible for bad teams to land expensive free agents. LeBron James went to the Cavaliers last summer. Al Jefferson (Charlotte), Josh Smith (Detroit) and Tyreke Evans (New Orleans) joined bad teams the year before.

The Knicks’ record hurts, but it doesn’t disqualify them. It’ll be interesting to see how Melo factors, though.

I’m convinced a lot of free agents like the idea of playing with Melo, but when push comes to shove, we’ll see whether any actually do it this summer – especially when so much else is going wrong with the Knicks around Melo.

Report: Lakers have called Pistons about Greg Monroe, Brandon Jennings


The Lakers are not content to just play out their worst season since moving to Los Angeles. (Yes, even worse than last year.)

They’re going to talk trade – and make sure you know they’re talking trade.

There was the pursuit of Rajon Rondo, an offer just good enough to look serious but clearly short of the Mavericks’ package. It never made sense for the Lakers to trade for Rondo, because they could just chase him in free agency after this lost season, but it seems they want their fans to know they’re trying.

They’re still trying to tell their fans they’re trying.

Ramona Shelburne of ESPN:

Dion Waiters already got traded to the Thunder, so that’s probably a no-go now.

It’d make no sense for the Lakers to trade for Greg Monroe. They wouldn’t get his Bird rights, so why not just sign him as an unrestricted free agent this summer? The Lakers could offer him the same contract whether or not they deal for him this season. There are only two rationales for making a Monroe trade now:

1. The Lakers want to use him this season to win. That’d upset Magic Johnson – and common sense, no matter what Jeanie Buss says. The Lakers’ best course is to tank enough to keep the top-five protected pick they owe the Suns, hope they strike gold in free agency and then ideally convey Phoenix a much lower pick in 2016.

2. The Lakers want to use the rest of the season to sell Monroe on Los Angeles. Even if adding to the roster sooner won’t change the contract they can offer him in the summer, they could have an opportunity to impress Monroe before any other suitors. However, given the way the Lakers’ season is going, they should probably want Monroe to see as little as possible in advance.

It makes a little more sense, emphasis on little, for the Lakers to trade for Jennings, who’s under contract for next season. He has has been instrumental in the Pistons post-Josh Smith turnaround. If Detroit deals Jennings, it’d clearly be taking a step back. Jennings is the best point guard on either the Pistons or Lakers.

Stan Van Gundy initially talked of a long-term view before his team won seven straight immediately after dropping Smith. That unexpected success has changed the team’s direction, but it doesn’t preclude the Pistons from selling off their parts. It’s not as if they’re anywhere near a playoff lock.

That said, why would the Lakers want Jennings now? Anything he provides this season is for naught, and though he’s under contract for an affordable $8,344,497 next season, the Lakers play in a market where they can target bigger free agents. Jennings would just cut into the Lakers’ cap space.

Essentially, there’s little reason Jennings should have more value to the Lakers than he does to the Pistons. But if the Lakers have an unreasonably high opinion of Jennings, the Pistons should at least listen.

LeBron James retains top spot on NBA’s most popular jerseys list


The NBA released its latest list of most popular jerseys, based on sales from October through December of 2014.

Not surprisingly, LeBron James, after returning to play for the Cavaliers, remained at the top of the list.

It’s the fifth consecutive time that James has topped jersey sales, but we had a newcomer claim the second spot.

Stephen Curry went from seventh to second, while Damian Lillard and Anthony Davis appeared on the list for the very first time.

The complete list, via official release:

1.     LeBron James, Cleveland Cavaliers

2.     Stephen Curry, Golden State Warriors

3.     Kevin Durant, Oklahoma City Thunder

4.     Kobe Bryant, Los Angeles Lakers

5.     Derrick Rose, Chicago Bulls

6.     Kyrie Irving, Cleveland Cavaliers

7.     Carmelo Anthony, New York Knicks

8.     Tim Duncan, San Antonio Spurs

9.     Dwyane Wade, Miami Heat

10.  Blake Griffin, Los Angeles Clippers

11.  Damian Lillard, Portland Trail Blazers

12.  Dirk Nowitzki, Dallas Mavericks

13.  Chris Paul, Los Angeles Clippers

14.  James Harden, Houston Rockets

15.  Anthony Davis, New Orleans Pelicans

The league also ranked the top 10 teams in terms of overall merchandise sales. The Lakers remain well ahead of the Clippers in the battle of Los Angeles, despite the respective fortunes of the franchises. And the Nets, despite playing in the New York market, fell out of the top 10 for the first time since moving to Brooklyn in 2012.

1.      Cleveland Cavaliers

2.      Chicago Bulls

3.      Golden State Warriors

4.      Los Angeles Lakers

5.      San Antonio Spurs

6.      Oklahoma City Thunder

7.      New York Knicks

8.      Miami Heat

9.      Boston Celtics

10.  Los Angeles Clippers