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Ailene Voisin: Bigger is not always better, Bibby discovers

Mike Bibby wasn't so sure about this. Wasn't so sure he wanted to hear about any of this. While Kings officials suggested otherwise, their pleas echoed by his own mother, he remained convinced that upper-body muscle makes the man, that at his advanced age of 27, a few extra pounds would enable him to better withstand the bruises that accumulate during the normal NBA season.

If he looked different - his pecs and biceps having hardened into expanded mounds of thickened flesh - it was sculpture by design. If he appeared sluggish and a full step slower during the opening weeks - and he did - it was an unfortunate, unintended consequence.

Yet there it was.

The old Bibby, gone.

The new Bibby bigger, not better.

The crafty stutter-step drives disappeared. The flawless jump shot that belongs in a display case when he retires became a poor shooter's imitation: Flat and short and often released while off-balance. And as the Kings limped along, their once-potent offense suddenly as famously uninspired as their defense, there was Bibby, struggling with the very face of his game.

No matter. The first quality that comes to mind during any discussion of Bibby's game is his impeccable timing. He always comes through in the clutch. He always comes up with an answer.

It just took him awhile. It also took him a few sharp comments from his bosses and coaches, a few admonishments from his mother, Virginia, and more than a few sessions with the Kings' new strength and conditioning coach, Daniel Shapiro. It also took Bibby's grudging acceptance of the obvious: For smallish guards without tremendous speed or laser-like court vision, lighter is probably better.

In a candid postgame conversation following the demoralizing season-opening defeat in Oklahoma City, Bibby openly - almost eagerly - acknowledged the self-inflicted damage. With a rare flash of visible anger, he revealed that he already had embarked on a program to shed weight and improve his conditioning. Sunday, he offered a sequel to the confession.

"Preseason and training camp, I didn't run," said Bibby, long known for his passion in the weight room. "All summer I didn't run, either. I played here and there, but it wasn't like my regular summer. ... But I've probably already lost 10 pounds."

At 6-foot-1 and 190 pounds, with his broad shoulders and torso offset by a slighter lower body, Bibby in his lightest moments will never be confused with a whippet. Nor is he a clone of Steve Nash, though there isn't a point guard in the league who couldn't learn something from the 2004-05 MVP when it comes to conditioning and penetrating/creating for teammates. Yet as Henry Bibby noted during a recent visit to Arco Arena "because I think Mike needs the support right now," his son has few equals when it comes to shooting the ball.
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