We knew it was coming. The Raptors had to sign DeMar DeRozan or Bismack Biyombo. The team didn't have the cap space to do both, they didn't have Biyombo's Bird Rights, they didn't have an easy way to clear salary. We knew Bismack Biyombo, due for a well-earned big raise, was going to leave. Today, he signed a four year deal with the Orlando Magic worth approximately $70 million.
Yes, Biyombo said that he'd like to return. Of course he'd like to return! The 23 year old had the finest season of his career for the Raptors, playing mostly backup centre. He averaged 5.5 points, 8.0 rebounds and 1.6 blocks in 22.0 minutes per game. But when Jonas Valanciunas went down with injury (twice), it was Biz who stepped in. And when the Raptors and the city look back at some of the biggest, most raucous moments from the past season, we will all inevitably see Biyombo. Whether it was a huge block, a massive rebound, a finger wag, or even one of those delightfully wild floaters he would sometimes chuck up, Biyombo will be remembered in Toronto. His showdowns with LeBron James in the Eastern Conference Finals are already stuff of legend.
Toronto, the city, loves hard-working players. Yes, talent and flashy skills are also well-received (usually), but give us a guy who'll do the dirty work and we'll cheer until it hurts. I've made this point before. After Game 3 against Cleveland, when asked about other players he respected, or could compare himself to, Biyombo made sure to be clear: "It's great, and I appreciate it, but at the end of the day, I'm Bismack Biyombo."
Bismack knows who he is, and now we know. There is a great pantheon of Raptors grinders to which Biyombo will now be added. We knew he was going to leave Toronto, but we'll miss him just the same.
Good luck and godspeed, Biz.
Now, let's share some favourite Biyombo memories in the comments. Here's my favourite: