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Bismack Biyombo likely to return vs Orlando Magic

The Hornets key backup rim protector is very close to a return.

Sam Sharpe-USA TODAY Sports

The Charlotte Hornets have been battling injuries throughout the season to many key players, but they might finally be returning close to full health. According to Rick Bonnell of the Charlote Observer, Bismack Biyombo practiced today in Boston, and a return in Sunday's game against the Orlando Magic is possible.

"And now he's getting ready to return after a 10-game absence. Biyombo particippated in practice Thursday at TD Garden. There's a small chance he'll be cleared to play Friday against the Boston Celtics, but more likely his return will come Sunday against the Magic, in Orlando, Fla."

This is fantastic news for a Hornets team that has been missing their prized rim protector. His absence became immediately noticeable when Charlotte lost to this close range buzzer beater against the Indiana Pacers.

Hill Game winner 1

The Hornets only need a stop here and they win the game, so Al Jefferson is off the floor and the duo of Marvin Williams and Cody Zeller is out there as the Hornets rim protectors. Zeller has the main rim protection role while Williams has been tasked with handling the corner.

Hill game winner 2

The Pacers are going to pull David West left in hopes that Cody Zeller will follow, and that will leave George Hill in a one on one matchup with Brian Roberts. Zeller however falls back so he can pickup on Hill if he drives. He's athletic enough to close out and get a good contest on a David West long two, and if the Hornets have to pick a shot to give up that's the one they'll pick.

Hill game winner 3

Hill chooses to continue his drive, and Zeller does a great job of forcing him into a bad shot situation. However, this is where things also go wrong for the Hornets. Zeller and Williams have some confusion on what to do here. Zeller is going to hang back under the rim to prevent a dump off pass Scola, because he's expecting Williams to switch on to Hill.

hill game winner 4

Zeller ended up making a crucial mistake here, and Hill had enough room to pull up and hit his game winner. This was a situation that the Hornets very clearly missed Biyombo's rim protection. He is much longer than Zeller, and that would have allowed him to recover quicker than Zeller did, and not only get a good contest, but maybe even block the shot. At this point it's speculation, but the bottom line is that Biyombo is a great rim protector, and the Hornets gave up a shot near the rim that cost them the game.

Biyombo had been playing very well before his injury, and it's been exciting to see. For a long time it felt like his liabilities on offense were too great to make up for the minimal return he was bringing on defense. This year however his growth as a player has shown through and he's shown that he can be not only a rotation level big man, but a key defensive contributor as well.