Veteran big Bismack Biyombo helps Suns keep rolling without injured Deandre Ayton

·4 min read
Phoenix Suns center Bimack Biyombo (18) slam dunks in the second half of an NBA basketball game against the New Orleans Pelicans in New Orleans, Tuesday, Jan. 4, 2022. The Suns won 123-110.
Phoenix Suns center Bimack Biyombo (18) slam dunks in the second half of an NBA basketball game against the New Orleans Pelicans in New Orleans, Tuesday, Jan. 4, 2022. The Suns won 123-110.

DALLAS – This couldn't have worked out any better for Bismack Biyombo.

The veteran big finds himself helping a championship contender continue to play well without starting big, Deandre Ayton.

"God is great," said the 29-year-old Biyombo, who is in his 11th NBA season.

"God's timing is just amazing. I'm thankful for that because without God, I wouldn't be in this position. I think everything is just going great. I think God's timing is not the same as human timing. You really have to believe in him and have a lot of faith. My family, myself, I was raised that way."

The Suns are 12-3 minus Ayton, who sprained his right ankle in Sunday's win in Detroit. Ayton missed Phoenix's next game Monday at San Antonio, but Biyombo did more than help fill the void in posting season-highs in points (17) and rebounds (14) in the 121-107 victory.

Averaging a career-high 8.5 points on 68.8% shooting, which is also a career best, in his first six games in Phoenix, Biyombo is making an early impact with the Suns, who had ruled out Ayton again Thursday night at Dallas to end this five-game road trip.

"Man, Biz is so solid," Suns All-Star point guard Chris Paul said. "It's a shame he was out the league."

Biyombo was without an NBA team after Charlotte renounced its free-agent exemption rights to him last August. With his father passing away in the same month, Biyombo wasn't in a rush to return to the league, but Phoenix had reached out to him.

Charlotte Hornets center Bismack Biyombo (8) talks to teammate LaMelo Ball in the first half of an NBA basketball game against the Orlando Magic in Charlotte, N.C., Friday, May 7, 2021. Charlotte won 122-112.
Charlotte Hornets center Bismack Biyombo (8) talks to teammate LaMelo Ball in the first half of an NBA basketball game against the Orlando Magic in Charlotte, N.C., Friday, May 7, 2021. Charlotte won 122-112.

The seventh overall pick in the 2011 draft from the Democratic Republic of the Congo said he and the Suns had stayed in contact since August.

Those conversations led to Biyombo signing a 10-day hardship exemption New Year's Day after Ayton, Suns starting forward Jae Crowder and backup big JaVale McGee were placed in the league's COVID health and safety protocols.

The next day, Biyombo, in his first game since May 16, 2021, scored 11 points and grabbed six rebounds in his Suns debut that ended in a lopsided 133-99 win over his former team in Charlotte.

With Ayton, McGee and Crowder still in protocols, Biyombo followed up that debut with 16 points, six rebounds, three blocks, three assists and two steals in a 123-110 victory in New Orleans.

Biyombo didn't score in his next two games as Ayton, McGee and Crowder returned while Jalen Smith continued to get solid minutes after his recent play.

Phoenix Suns head coach Monty Williams talks with forward Jalen Smith (10) in the first half of an NBA basketball game against the New Orleans Pelicans in New Orleans, Tuesday, Jan. 4, 2022.
Phoenix Suns head coach Monty Williams talks with forward Jalen Smith (10) in the first half of an NBA basketball game against the New Orleans Pelicans in New Orleans, Tuesday, Jan. 4, 2022.

Smith tied career-highs in points (19) and rebounds (14) in last week's win over the Clippers.

Biyombo didn't play against Miami at home. Ayton, Crowder and McGee were back, but the Suns signed him Jan. 11 for the remainder of the season.

He saw five minutes at Toronto to begin a five-game road trip, didn't play in Phoenix's next game at Indiana, but got an opportunity at Detroit, where Ayton suffered a right ankle sprain in the first quarter.

Biyombo scored seven points and grabbed four boards in 14 minutes against the Pistons. With Ayton out, Williams went into the second of a back-to-back Monday with McGee having started 10 games this season and Smith starting four.

Detroit Pistons forward Saddiq Bey (41) drives as Phoenix Suns center JaVale McGee (00) defends during the first half of an NBA basketball game, Sunday, Jan. 16, 2022, in Detroit.
Detroit Pistons forward Saddiq Bey (41) drives as Phoenix Suns center JaVale McGee (00) defends during the first half of an NBA basketball game, Sunday, Jan. 16, 2022, in Detroit.

Williams started McGee, who dropped 20 on 9-of-10 shooting and six rebounds Sunday back in his home state of Michigan. He's from Flint and played at Detroit Country Day.

McGee had six points and eight rebounds against the Spurs, but appeared worn down at times battling San Antonio's bigs on the glass led by Jakob Poeltl.

Seeing the interior size and physicality of the Spurs, Williams elected to bring Biyombo off the bench instead of Smith.

"We needed some rebounding, they were kicking our butts," Williams said. "Now Jalen can rebound, but they had guys down there that can move you around a little bit. I thought Biz would give us a bit more girth down there."

The move worked.

San Antonio Spurs center Jock Landale (34) and Phoenix Suns center Bismack Biyombo (18) battle for control of the ball during the first half of an NBA basketball game, Monday, Jan. 17, 2022, in San Antonio.
San Antonio Spurs center Jock Landale (34) and Phoenix Suns center Bismack Biyombo (18) battle for control of the ball during the first half of an NBA basketball game, Monday, Jan. 17, 2022, in San Antonio.

Biyombo gave Phoenix a huge spark off the bench on a night Devin Booker scored a season-high 48 points. Playing two more minutes than McGee, Biyombo shot 8-of-10 from the field and effectively called out defensive switches in a season-high 25 minutes of play.

"Book played great," Biyombo said. "Overall, I think our effort was great. We continue to focus on the little things and I think the thing for me is continuing to learn every little thing about my teammates, the plays, our defensive schemes. Just to be able to recognize things and continuing to grow and do better."

Ayton is their starting center, McGee has solidified himself as the backup, but Williams knows he can call on Biyombo at any time to deliver.

"I'm just thankful to be in this situation like this where everybody understand their job, the goal we're trying to accomplish here," Biyombo said. "We go out there and we go get it."

Have opinion about current state of the Suns? Reach Suns Insider Duane Rankin at dmrankin@gannett.com or contact him at 480-787-1240. Follow him on Twitter at @DuaneRankin.

Support local journalism. Start your online subscription.

This article originally appeared on Arizona Republic: Bismack Biyombo helps Suns keep going without injured Deandre Ayton