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Rookie Biyombo moving to center for Bobcats

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CHARLOTTE, N.C. (AP)

(Eds: With AP Photos.)By STEVE REEDAP Sports Writer

Rookie Bismack Biyombo is beginning to make quite an impression with the Charlotte Bobcats.

Enough so that he's moving up the depth chart.

Bobcats coach Paul Silas said starting Saturday night against Chicago, Biyombo will move to center where he'll backup starter Byron Mullens for the remainder of the season. That's a good move for Biyombo, who had been buried on the depth chart beneath a glut of power forwards including Tyrus Thomas, D.J. White and, at times, Boris Diaw.

The decision comes after Biyombo's most impressive game as a professional Tuesday night at Orlando.

Biyombo registered his first double-double with 11 points and 10 rebounds in the loss to the Magic, and played well on defense. Even though Magic center Dwight Howard scored 25 points, Silas likes the job Biyombo did on Orlando's dominant big man. Biyombo had four blocks and nine defensive rebounds and seemed to frustrate Howard late in the game.

''I was playing him at the power forward spot and I had so many guys there,'' Silas said. ''But now he's going to be my backup center. He's going to play there from here on in. He and Byron will share that spot and Byron will start and Bismack will come off the bench.''

Biyombo is only 6-foot-9, but Silas considers him the toughest player on the team.

He showed that against the Magic.

Silas points to one sequence in which Biyombo blocked a shot on one end and raced the floor to finish with a dunk on the other end.

''That's something you don't see every day,'' Silas said. ''He really played hard and played tough. He's probably the toughest player I have on the club. And he deserves more playing time.''

That doesn't mean Biyombo is a complete player. Far from it.

He's still learning the American game after spending last season with the Spanish team Fuenlabrada.

Of all of the first-round picks this year, perhaps nobody needed a training camp and summer league ball more than Biyombo. Simple concepts were foreign to him and it's taken awhile for him to pick them up.

The NBA lockout and a contract rift with Fuenlabrada put him even further behind.

But his performance against the Magic was what the team had been looking for. Biyombo was an encouraging 5 of 5 from the floor against Orlando and made very few mistakes.

But Silas said there's still plenty of work to do, particularly on offense.

''For a while he couldn't even catch the ball and was very nervous offensively,'' Silas said. ''But now, working with (assistant coach) Rob Werdann, he's catching the ball and learning how to shoot, even little baby hooks. But this coming summer we really have to work on his shots. Once he gets confident in his shooting he's going to be really good.''

Biyombo is very modest, deflecting all and any praise.

He views himself as a beginner, a kid with so much to learn he can't even choose what he needs to improve on the most.

''I have to get better at almost everything, to be honest with you,'' Biyombo said. ''To me, every day is a learning process. It's going to take a long time, but it's starting to click.''

Silas said he loves Biyombo's passion for the game.

''His aggressiveness and toughness and intensity, I like all of that,'' Silas said. ''He's learning. Before he wouldn't be in the right spot or wouldn't rotate correctly, all of those kinds of things. Now it's getting there. I like the way he approaches the game. He wants it. He's working hard every day. That says a lot to me about a guy who was drafted (seventh overall).''

Biyombo said battling Howard was ''a good challenge,'' but clearly he wasn't intimidated.

''He's a tall guy,'' Biyombo said. ''I enjoyed playing against him.''

Prior to Tuesday night's breakout game, Biyombo was averaging less than 12 minutes per game with 29 total points and 36 rebounds in 13 games. Strangely, he didn't play against Cleveland the night before the Orlando game.

That made his performance all the more surprising.

''You always have to be ready and stay positive,'' Biyombo said. ''You just never know. I'm always ready and as far as my playing time, that's a coach's decision and something you can't control. I have to get better.''

When he does, Silas thinks Biyombo has star potential.

''People are going to be very surprised, I think, in a year or so with his ability to get it done,'' Silas said.

Tagged: Magic, Hornets, Dwight Howard, Byron Mullens

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