DeMar DeRozan welcomed Bismack Biyombo by telling him 'I hated you'

TORONTO –- Not long after they became teammates for the first time last summer, DeMar DeRozan welcomed Bismack Biyombo to the Toronto Raptors by telling him how much he detested him.

“I hated Bis,” DeRozan recalled. “When he was in Charlotte, I hated Bis. I hated him. He was a fouler, always blocking shots. He always went for the pump fake, though, but I hated Bis. I told Bismack, 'I hated you.'”

These days, DeRozan loves Biyombo and so does all of Toronto. The Cleveland Cavaliers now might be experiencing what DeRozan felt earlier about Biyombo, whose franchise playoff record 26 rebounds and four blocks lifted the Raptors to a much-needed Game 3 victory.

Toronto will likely need another monster game out of Biyombo with center Jonas Valanciunas listed as doubtful for Monday’s Game 4. Valanciunas was upgraded from being out the past three games and was on the court on Sunday during Raptors practice. But head coach Dwane Casey said Valanciunas (right ankle sprain) didn’t do anything differently than he has been doing.

With Valanciunas watching, Biyombo set the tone physically and emotionally for the Raptors. He was a force with his rebounding, defense and even a hard flagrant foul on LeBron James late in the fourth quarter of Game 3.

And Toronto fed off his finger wags following blocks and Usain Bolt-like celebrations. If any of what he did irritated Cleveland, Biyombo doesn’t care.

“Once the game starts, I probably won't talk to you until the end of the game,” Biyombo said. “… When the ball is up, I'm not trying to make friends or plans.”

The only thing Biyombo wants to do is be there for his team and send Toronto back to Cleveland for Game 5 with the series even at 2-2.

In order for that to happen, Biyombo will have to play the role of enforcer, glass-eater and Cavaliers agitator all over again -– all reasons why DeRozan is thrilled to have Biyombo on his side these days.

“Now, by far, he's one of my favorite teammates of all time,” DeRozan said. “… Now you understand why everybody else hated him so much, and I love it now.”