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July 29, 2011

FIBA denies Biyombo clearance

My story in tomorrow's Observer on FIBA turning down the NBA's request, concerning Bobcats draft pick Bismack Biyombo:

By Rick Bonnell


            The NBA lockout isn’t the only thing keeping the Charlotte Bobcats from signing their top draft pick.

            FIBA, basketball’s international governing body, recently declined to provide the NBA clearance to sign forward Bismack Biyombo, the Observer has learned. Biyombo, drafted seventh overall in June, is still under contract to a Spanish team and the Spanish Federation is enforcing that contract.

            In an email reply to an Observer inquiry, FIBA spokesman Andrew Robotham wrote:

“The NBA has indeed requested a Letter of Clearance (LoC) for the Player Bismack Biyombo. In accordance with the NBA/FIBA Agreement, FIBA has contacted the Spanish Federation in order to obtain the LoC.

“However, the Spanish Basketball Federation refused to issue the LoC in view of the fact that the Player is still under contract with a team in Spain. ‘’

That Spanish team, Fuenlabrada, reportedly has Biyombo under contract for the next two seasons and expects a buyout of about $1.4 million to release Biyombo to the Bobcats. Though Biyombo expressed great confidence he’d be a Bobcat once the lockout ends ( “I’m going to play in the NBA next season for sure, 100 percent,’’ he said the day after the draft), FIBA’s recent action suggests things could get sticky.

A mediation session between Fuenlabrada and Biyombo’s representatives was scheduled for early July. The results of that session have not been made public.

The Observer was unsuccessful in reaching Biyombo’s agent, Igor Crespo, for comment. Bobcats officials are barred by the NBA from commenting on their players during the lockout, under the threat of a million-dollar fine.

While FIBA’s recent action could complicate things, this can’t come as much of a surprise to the Bobcats. When asked about Biyombo’s contract situation on draft night, general manager Rich Cho commented, “He’s got a dispute with his Spanish team. It’s something we’ll have to address. It’s a little bit complicated.’’

Signability often makes drafting international players more complicated than drafting U.S. college players. It’s commonplace these days for foreign teams to include buyout clauses in player contracts, in case those players develop into NBA prospects. In most cases, an NBA team can pay no more than $500,000 toward a buyout, leaving the player to pay the rest. Under the rookie pay scale the NBA has used in recent seasons, Biyombo would make about $2.4 million next season as the seventh pick.

This is a complicated time in the relationship between the NBA and FIBA, due to the NBA lockout. Many prominent NBA players -- notably the Nets’ Deron Williams and the Lakers’ Kobe Bryant -- have begun discussions with teams overseas about playing there if the lockout drags into the regular season. Each of those players would have to receive a letter of clearance from FIBA, to override their existing NBA contracts.

While it seems unlikely the NBA could keep players from playing elsewhere in a lockout, the legal arguments haven’t yet been tested with FIBA.

The Bobcats have already invested heavily in Biyombo’s potential as a shotblocker and rebounder. They made a draft-night trade with Sacramento and Milwaukee, giving up Stephen Jackson, Shaun Livingston and the 19th pick, to acquire the draft rights to Biyombo, a Congo-born big man.

Cho, hired last month as No. 2 in basketball operations behind Rod Higgins, strongly advocated the acquisition of Biyombo.


Posted by Observer Sports on July 29, 2011 at 04:31 PM | Permalink


Why worry? The NBA is taking the year off. There's no reason to rush things. You have plenty of time to do whatever you want. Meet you back at the Cable Box at Trade by September of 2012.

Posted by: Dougie | Jul 29, 2011 5:10:39 PM

The first mistake of Rich Cho....

Posted by: Scott | Jul 29, 2011 5:27:11 PM

Who cares about the NBA. All the players are going overseas anyways.

Posted by: AppGrad04 | Jul 29, 2011 5:46:20 PM

I think this is just a math equation and somebody will get it figured out in plenty of time.

Posted by: Keith | Jul 29, 2011 6:22:52 PM

Exactly dougie. Just let Bismack go play in Spain for a year and things will be solved in time. Can't wait to see him 2012

Posted by: Mike | Jul 29, 2011 7:08:44 PM

this isn't exactly new news. they were trying to avoid the buyout but they knew there was a contract. so now the question is simply........is biyombo going to make 1.5 million over there next year and the following? i doubt it, so he ponies up on the 900k and jordan uses the money he sold our 2nd rounder for to cover the other 500k allowed by teams.

but really......this is fine assuming the relationship with the spanish club is not damaged beyond repair. if lockout goes into the season, he plays over there and works out a lower buyout for the following season. it might even be better to let him play the 2 years out and get his game 100% nba ready. bring him over for training camps and what not when you can. play some exhibitions in spain, etc.

we could really use a year without him to thoroughly evaluate tyrus thomas and DJ white and figure out who stays and who goes long term. especially if it's a shortened 2011-12 season. no need in having a rookie miss out on a full season for 40 games on one of the worst teams in the league.

Posted by: charlottean | Jul 29, 2011 9:08:05 PM

Brandon Knight.

Posted by: sfinsf | Jul 29, 2011 9:08:59 PM

Really? Dougie is your name? Are you 12? Do your parents know you are on their computer?
Get in bed. Dougie? Dobie Gillis?

Posted by: Moneyman | Jul 29, 2011 9:09:44 PM

I'm not of the mind that the lockout won't cancel the season fully, but saving us a year of development on his rookie contract might be a silver lining to this cloud. Assuming, of course, he's not actually 27 years old.

Posted by: Michael Procton | Jul 30, 2011 10:33:49 AM

but again, if he's in line to make 2.5 million next year (assuming cap and season) and the buyout is 1.4 (500k of which team can pay).....i don't think the dude is making 1.5 million next year, let alone over the next 2 years. I would imagine he's making like 400k a year over there tops.

So yea....it's really a non-issue and that's probably why biyombo said as much. because he already knew the worst case scenario was that he payed the buyout, he was just trying to avoid doing so.

Posted by: charlottean | Jul 30, 2011 1:53:52 PM

Moneyman are you serious? It really befuddles me how anyone can look at that baby face, and doubt that he is 19. My 14 year old looks older than Bismack.

Posted by: Geraldmutumbo | Jul 30, 2011 9:26:02 PM

Agree with much of what Charlottean said. There really won't be any room for Biyombo to get minutes, unless they are out of position. He's not ready to help us to the degree that Tyrus, DJ White, and Boris Diaw can already help us at the 4. And 2 of those guys need more development. The other, Diaw of course, is in a contract year and might suddenly find his A-game. Why pay Biyombo to sit on the bench or struggle out of position?

Who knows? If Biyombo is only 19 and still growing, he might show up after two years in the Spanish League looking like a POOR MAN'S hybrid of Ben Wallace and Dwight Howard....ready to play 2 positions.....

Posted by: DeLaQuest | Jul 31, 2011 11:30:47 AM

charlottean, that's not true. Even if his future earnings would exceed the buyout cost, he wouldn't necessarily have the money on hand. NBA rookie deals don't have big signing bonuses...they're paid week-to-week.

Posted by: Michael Procton | Aug 1, 2011 12:37:06 AM

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