Bismack Biyombo started off his NBA career last Monday night with much left to be desired. In just 6 minutes of action Biyombo had no points, no rebounds, committed a turnover and got put on a Larry Sanders poster.
Since that night, Biyombo has been a different player. In the three games since opening night Biyombo has averaged 14.7 MPG, 3.3 PPG, 4.7 RPG and 1.7 BPG. The rebounds and blocks are the most impressive stats and suggest just what all scouts and GM’s knew Biyombo was coming into the draft.
What has stuck out most to me in watching Biyombo play early in the season is how hard he plays on the defensive end. By season’s end, Biyombo should be considered to be one of the most aggressive defenders on the low post.
Biyombo’s performance against Dwight Howard spoke the loudest in my eyes. Howard absolutely dominated the Bobcats last Friday night, but Biyombo was able to defend him physically and bother more shots than any other player for Charlotte.
“It was a really good experience to be out there and playing against Dwight (Howard) and fighting against him. Defensively, I tried to stop him and I think I did it one time (stop Dwight) and one time I got a foul, but I almost had him,” said Biyombo about his performance going up against Howard.
Biyombo also gave me an idea about why he believed that he was able to physically match up with Howard. Howard’s strength is an asset that overwhelmingly imposes itself on most players, but Biyombo was able to match the best center in the game with strength of his own.
“I want to say that he’s (Howard) strong and I’m strong too. We are out there, we fight, we fight. I was out there fighting against him and he was out there fighting against me,” added Biyombo about the matchup with Howard.
He uses the word “fight” a lot when describing his defensive intangibles, but a lot of this is probably due to the fact that he’s still polishing up on his English. Either way, Howard wasn’t able to back him down at will like he can most defenders, to Howard though, the way that Biyombo was playing (fighting?) against him was not effective.
When I asked Howard about playing against Biyombo, the first thing he responded with was, “Who?”
After I jogged Howard’s memory just a bit and asked him if he recalled playing against the rookie Biyombo he responded, “I recall him getting some fouls and sitting back on the bench.”
“A lot of rookie’s come in and they just want to battle, battle. They don’t really understand how to slow the game down. He just wanted to battle and battle and try to fight with me which got him in foul trouble. I don’t mind the battling, but you have to pick and choose when you’re going to be super physical and when you’re just going to be a great defensive player,” added Dwight about what he thought was an overly aggression defensive effort by Biyombo.
Whether Howard just isn’t used to getting challenged like that one-on-one around the basket or whether he was just protecting his own reputation against a rookie, he did somewhat come off his stoop and offer some positive thoughts about Biyombo and playing against him.
“I thought he (Biyombo) would have really done a great job if he would have just relaxed and played defense, but he wanted to be so aggressive and he got some quick fouls, but you know I like what he did. That’s what he’s supposed to do, he’s not supposed to back down, but next game it’s going to be a little different for him,” concluded Howard.
As hard as Biyombo plays, to go along with what Howard was saying, he has had an issue with foul trouble early in the season. Coach Silas added his thoughts about that and Biyombo’s overall effort against Howard on Friday night.
“He’s never been in this situation before and I would assume that he was able to bang people and nothing happened, but you’ve got to pick your spots. That takes time, it takes time for him to learn. I have to be very patient with him,” said Silas.
I asked Silas why Biyombo was able to be the best post defender that the Bobcats could throw at Howard, not knowing whether or not Silas even thought Biyombo did the best job on him.
“I think that it was his aggressiveness. He was really strong inside with him. He didn’t just let him push him around and he’s a jumper so he can get up and contest the shot. The rest of them (Diop & Diaw) weren’t really contesting the shot,” added Silas.
Biyombo’s minutes will continue to rise. The more experience he gains and the more practice reps he’s able to get, then the workload is sure to increase. Coach Silas understands that this is a guy who wasn’t able to be present for hardly any of the two-week training camp because of the contact issue with his old professional team in Spain, so he’s easing him into the flow of things.
Don’t get me wrong, there are a lot of bad habits in Biyombo’s game. Most notable, leaving his feet on what seems to be every ball fake he gets. That being said, this kid is 19 years old and there simply is no one with a better attitude and will to get better than Bismack Biyombo’s.
In Biyombo’s own words, “It’s a process, but I’m going to get there.”