Bobcats coach says playing Jeff Adrien over Bismack Biyombo was by the numbers

rbonnell@charlotteobserver.comNovember 26, 2013 

Charlotte Bobcats center Bismack Biyombo, the seventh pick in the 2011 NBA draft, has played five minutes over the past three games.

Jeff Adrien, an undrafted free agent, has played 48 minutes in those three games.

Bobcats coach Steve Clifford’s concern isn’t where someone was drafted, but rather how he’s performing. And of late, Clifford said, Adrien was outperforming Biyombo.

“Jeff Adrien did so well – and I told Biz this – that I couldn’t not give him a chance to play more,” Clifford said after practice Tuesday.

“These are facts and numbers, not a feel. If you look at plus-minus in those games when he played, we played so well as a group. His plus-minus was so good I would have felt guilty with the guys if I didn’t give him a chance.”

Plus-minus is an NBA statistic that measures whether a team’s performance improved (extending a lead or reducing a deficit) when a particular player participated. It’s an imperfect stat in that sometimes things happen – good or bad – when a player is on-court that are not his doing.

But the numbers Clifford referred to are eye-catching:In the five games leading up to playing Adrien over Biyombo (when center Al Jefferson returned to the active roster), Adrien totaled a plus-24. In those same five games, Biyombo totaled minus-38.

This is the first time in Biyombo’s two-plus seasons with the Bobcats that he’s slipped out of the rotation. Clifford said he hasn’t lost faith in Biyombo, just that Adrien has outperformed him.

“Biz has made improvement,” Clifford said. “Biz is going to make his mark in this league by defending and rebounding. He’s actually done well.”

Biyombo, who came to the NBA from the Spanish League, sounds stoic about all this. The Bobcats recently picked up his option for the 2014-15 season, guaranteeing him about $4 million.

He wants to play, but he’s not focusing on what’s beyond his control right now.

“I’ve got to control what I can control. It’s obvious I believe that I can be a better player. I’ve just got to keep positive, keep working and be there for my teammates,” Biyombo said. “There’s a long way to go. The season is just getting started, so you’ve got to learn from all this.

“He’s the coach. He made the decision and I respect that. He feels this is for the better of the team and there’s nothing I can do about it. I can only control myself coming in and getting ready. And staying ready. I’ll always be ready.”

Road, sweet road?

The Bobcats’ peculiar pattern of playing better on the road this season than at home continued Monday with a 96-86 loss to the Boston Celtics at Time Warner Cable Arena.

“All we talked about today is we need to play better at home,” Clifford said. “We’ve played some really good games on the road in tough places to play. We have to find the approach, intensity, concentration at home that we’ve had on the road.”

The Bobcats are 3-5 at home and 4-3 on the road. Even in some of the road losses, they played competitively against likely playoff teams (at Houston and at Chicago).

“We’ve got to figure this out. Coach is stressing it. We know it’s big,” said point guard Ramon Sessions. “We have to make this a place where people are afraid to come play.”

Shooting guard Gerald Henderson suspects this is partially about him and his teammates preparing for adversity away from Charlotte.

“I think the big thing on the road is you’re almost forced to have a lot of energy and focus, just because you’re playing against a team that’s comfortable on their floor –whether it’s the fans (affecting a game) or whatever it may be,” Henderson said. “It’s kind of the opposite when we come (home). We don’t bring that kind of urgency and energy to win a game.

“Last night we started the game well, but we didn’t retain it. It’s something we can turn around easily; we’ve just got to do it.”

Rick Bonnell: (704) 358-5129; Twitter: @rick_bonnell

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