This wasn’t a normal debut for new Phoenix Suns center Bismack Biyombo (pronounced bis-MOCK), and that started well before the game.
Since the passing of his father in August, Biyombo has stayed away from the game, waiting for the “right situation and opportunity.”
Just ahead of the turn to 2022, that “right situation and opportunity” came when the Suns were at the height of an internal COVID-19 outbreak that took out the team’s top two centers, a position group that was already missing two due to injury in Dario Saric and Frank Kaminsky.
ESPN Sources: The Phoenix Suns plan to sign free agent C Bismack Biyombo on a 10-day hardship deal. Biyombo, who started 41 games for Charlotte last year, brings some size and strength to Suns’ frontline depth. Deal could be prelude to a longer stay this season.— Adrian Wojnarowski (@wojespn) January 1, 2022
That last line “Deal could be prelude to a longer stay this season” did not feel like an accident when Woj fired off that tweet, and sure enough, Biyombo was planning a long-term stay. It was announced Thursday morning that he would sign on for the rest of the season, before his initial 10-day was even up:
The Phoenix Suns are signing center Bismack Biyombo for the rest of the season, sources tell ESPN. Biyombo has made an impact in his two games on a 10-day deal: 13.5 points, six rebounds and two blocks.— Adrian Wojnarowski (@wojespn) January 6, 2022
Jan. 2 @ Charlotte Hornets (133-99 win):
11 points (5-7 FG, 1-1 FT), 6 rebounds, 1 assist, 1 steal, 1 block in 18 min (+19 in 34-point win)
Biyombo doesn’t have the most versatile offensive package, but that doesn’t preclude him from being really good at what he does do. That’s shown here on this baseline out-of-bounds play that gave him the ball just above the restricted area. He’s not the type to force things that aren’t there so Biyombo kicks it back out and gets out of the way – a crucial action that dunker’s spot bigs often fail to do. The ball ends up back in his hands for a dunk, since he kept himself available:
He had his share of highlights as well, and on a night that included many fireworks from different Phoenix players, Biyombo offered the game’s first poster dunk:
And if fans weren’t feeling good enough after this Charlotte barnstorming, check out this excellent seal after a screen that Biyombo gets, providing a window for his bucket. It’s the type of move that neutralizes small ball:
Jan. 4 @ New Orleans Pelicans (123-110 win):
16 points (6-6 FG, 4-7 FT), 6 rebounds, 3 assists, 2 steals, 3 blocks in 29 min (+8 in 13-point win)
In the game with his highest minute total as a Sun thus far, Biyombo had a very on-brand game, making his imprint felt on both ends. That starts with this pseudo-moving screen here out of the pick-and-roll to open up the elbow jumper for Chris Paul.
This next play will end up being a very common theme for both this first week with the team as well as just one of Biz’s most reliable sources of where his assists will come from. A nice little two-man game with Booker on this play where all Biz has to do is wait for the right time to pitch it back out. It’s the type of play that Deandre Ayton is very capable of adding to his offensive package more consistently once he makes his return.
And it wouldn’t be a Biyombo highlight package without a ferocious dunk off of the nice feed from Paul. This one comes out of a stacked screen set where Booker sets a high screen, so the lane is more wide open for Biz to gather and slam it down.
Jan. 6 vs Los Angeles Clippers (106-89 win):
0 points (0-2 FG), 3 rebounds, 3 blocks in 13 min (+7 in 17-point win)
Unfortunately for Biz, his first game as a full-time Sun came when Jalen Smith had probably his best start (which, of course, comes in Smith’s fourth and likely final start after I wrote about his first three starts earlier this week), so many of the minutes Biyombo would’ve seen in the second half went to Smith, but Biz still found ways to make an impact.
First and foremost, Biz was able to make his presence felt on the defensive end against the generally smaller Clippers squad, including this possession, where he blocked Brandon Boston Jr. twice in a span of a few seconds.
Biyombo’s off-ball activity on the offensive end stood out tonight. He’s constantly trying to find anyone to seal whether to create post touches for himself or open up the lane for others. Granted it ends in a turnover on this possession, it’s really nice to see a big work as hard away from the ball as Biz does here just to help Booker try to find any room to work with.
And for good measure, here’s one more example. The help still comes in the form of Nic Batum, but Terance Mann is just completely out of the picture thanks to Biyombo’s physicality:
Biyombo has confidence in his ability to adapt quickly into this team’s structure. “It’s basketball man, it’s not rocket science… We’ve all got one ball to play with.” That quick adaptability has proven itself true through his first couple appearances with the team.
And now that we know he’ll be around for the long haul, Biyombo provides even more depth within the mold of center that Ayton and McGee fall under as well, meaning lineups that play those styles will have another big to use.
Best case scenario is that he’s able to offer some survivable minutes during playoff series against bigger teams like the Lakers, Denver, or Milwaukee.