Ibaka has faith he’ll play in Game 3

By Jeff Caplan, NBA.com

VIDEO: GameTime: Will Serge Ibaka be back for Game 3?

OKLAHOMA CITY — It’s some 30 hours until an all-important Game 3 of the Western Conference finals, and Serge Ibaka has not jogged nor run nor jumped nor taken the practice floor with his teammates.

Yet the 6-foot-10, stone-solid native of the Congo says he’s been through much worse in his life, and that he has faith in God that the pain and swelling in his left calf will subside enough to allow him to play Sunday night and attempt to help his team turn around the series, now 2-0 in the San Antonio Spurs’ favor.

Ultimately, he awaits what his body will tell him Sunday morning and then a final green light from the the Oklahoma City Thunder’s team doctor.

“I’m a tough guy, I’ve been through a lot when I was young,” said Ibaka, who walked slowly toward reporters while wearing a black sleeve that covered the entirety of his lower left leg. “Since I come here, nothing was easy for me. So I know it’s going to be tough. But I will put my mind ready. If the doc gives me the OK, I will be ready to go.

“I am the kind of guy, who, I believe in God, and when the team doctor told me I am going to be out for the rest of the playoffs, I did not believe it because I believe in God, and I know I’m here for a reason. So I want to just keep pushing, keep putting ice, do what I can control.”

During the Thunder’s light shootaround Saturday morning, Ibaka continued his rehab work with team trainers. Coach Scott Brooks and Ibaka’s teammates said they are preparing to face the Spurs without their starting power forward, third-leading scorer and the league’s top shot-blocker.

Ibaka clearly has other ideas. As for his rapid recovery, he said, “Everything is going differently than the doctors told me.” He would not put a percentage on his health now or what it might be Sunday night, but acknowledged that if he plays, he will do so in considerable pain.

“Whatever it take, man, whatever it take, whatever it take, whatever my teammates need from me and my body lets me go,” Ibaka said. “Whatever it take, I will be there for my teammates.”

Ibaka sustained a Grade 2 strain of his left calf in the third quarter of Game 6 against the Los Angeles Clippers on May 15. After an exam the following day, the Thunder ruled him out for the remainder of the playoffs. On Friday, the team issued a stunning news release stating a faster recovery than the medical staff could have imagined. Ibaka’s status was downgraded to day-to-day.

Averaging 12.2 ppg, 7.3 rpg and 2.2 bpg until the injury, Ibaka said his rehab has included a steady diet of icing the calf, weight work in the gym, shooting set shots and, perhaps most important for this undertaking, mental preparation for game action.

“Like I said,” Ibaka said. “I am going to do whatever it takes to help my team.”

33 Comments

  1. okc2014 says:

    I am disappointed at my team. They fake injury just to catch Spurs off guard. Even Tony Parker said Ibaka won’t be out for long. And scotty Brooks said he’ll shave his head if Ibaka plays. Very disappointed and liar got no support from me.

  2. David says:

    If he doesn’t play, does that mean he won’t believe in God anymore?

    If he plays and hasn’t run yet, it’s not going to magically get better. If it gets a bit better, he won’t be able to move well and he’ll get killed in pick and rolls.

  3. NP305 says:

    Ibaka will probably get to play and it’ll be enough for game 3, but Spurs will finish this series in 5. That is, unless okc makes history again by winning 4 in a row..

  4. KDfan says:

    Even if Ibaka plays, the spurs will go at him and test him. Ibaka will of course give it his best. If he prevails, that’ll alter the SAS tactics some. If not…… But the others need to step up and KD and Russ need to share the ball more with Reggie and Lamb. Butler has choked so far just like Harden did before. He can be used as a veteran voice off the bench. I would like to see Lamb more. If they play Ibaka, I would like to see Adams and Reggie start in place of Perk and Thabo.

  5. Forson says:

    Much as I commend Ibaka for intending to play through pain to help his teammates in their game three encounter against the Spurs this afternoon, I would rather that he doesn’t rush things or try to be a hero and jeopardize a very promising future in the process. Although your team mates and the Thunder fans may miss you now, which may be a temporary setback, it is not worth aggravating the injury and having them miss you in the long run. Ibaka, if you believe in GOD, remember that there is time for everything under the sun and that sometimes the spirit may be willing but the flesh may be weak. My candid advise therefore as a brother from Ghana is to take the time necessary to heal. Even if your team is unable to defeat the Spurs without you, don’t forget that you belong to a fairly young and talented team and you’ll have many more chances to redeem yourself in the future. it’s time for the rest of the Thunder team to approach game three with the mindset of trying to win one for IBAKA.

  6. Miami Heat Fan says:

    Ibaka should rest and play next season. SPURS Team will sweep them even with Ibaka. MIA vs SPURS on Finals!

  7. ivan says:

    i would like to point out that no one has pointed out that this man is a believer of the one and only God …i hope his prayers go answered at least a miracle from god to give him the chance to perform with his teamates. that way when the spurs win there wont be no what If’s just the heart braking score they leave thunder with and their fans staring in awe,,,

  8. Leah Demeter says:

    Ibaka is going to play in “considerable pain”. If his injury gets worse or cuts his career short, I will hate the Thunder even more. I don’t know if I can enjoy the game without worrying about Ibaka.

    • greenman35 says:

      I totally agree with you. It is not worth having Ibaka take such a risk just to try and win a playoff game. Let say okc win this series, what about the finals? Are we going to continue to risk the Surge Protector?? IMO, Ibaka has a bright future and i wouldnt want him to play unless i am a 100% certain that he’s fit. No point risking his career just to try i get a win. I understand championship windows are short and dont come around very often, but its even harder to find a player like Ibaka. Besides, if okc defends like they did in Game 2, Ibaka wouldnt even make much of a difference.

      The Green Man.

  9. Chris Mantooth says:

    Can OKC be trusted to protect a player? Is the idea of trying to win a game too tantalizing to not at least risk the health of a player? Perhaps the Thunder should look at things macrocosmically instead of it’s single minded microcosmic approach. Ibaka saying he will play with considerable pain says he shouldn’t be playing. Consequences are too great a risk if all goes wrong, and they most likely will given the circumstances. Being a Spurs fan I want Ibaka to play, so nothing can be said to the otherwise. However, not to the risk of a player and their future…

  10. antz says:

    Spurs fan, OKC follower, there isn’t a better team playing team then the spurs, love the OKC, ibaka a loss definitely, OKC has the means to win with or without him. The question is ‘How does a team of champions like OKC beat a champion team like the Spurs?.

  11. Randee says:

    OKC Plays better without Westbrook. With or without Ibaka, the Spurs will take at least one in OKC and win the series at home.

  12. Spurs Fan Forever says:

    The following comment is just in my humble opinion. I can’t blame the OKC fans for not losing faith in their team. I’m a die-hard Spurs Fan and understand, But a reality check is due… as the article states at the beginning “…. Serge Ibaka has not jogged nor run nor jumped nor taken the practice floor with his teammates.” Which already puts him at a disadvantage against a healthy Spurs team. Will he be able to keep up if he is hurting and somewhat out of practice if he hasn’t played?. With this and the fact that he has not even traveled with the team as they are required to do when they are unable to play for whatever reason should be telling of the seriousness of his injury. Even though he has faith & the sense of responsibility to want to play to help his teammates or whether it is the pressure from team, coach, front office, fans etc. The question is should he play & damaged himself further or possibly his career? Shame on you OKC fans for thinking he can save this series instead of his well being. Remember Derek Rose he has not been able to play in 2 or so seasons. In his case, he healed or so they though and was brought back only to re-injure himself worst. He still recovering. Two different types of injuries yes, but none the less injuries with the same results.I commend Ibaka but he will not be able to save the Thunder. The Spurs are of championship caliber, on fire & are not afraid of any team. We will take out the Thunder with or without Ibaka because he is neither the problem nor the solution. He is an important part but not enough to save the Thunder. They are a great young team but they have to mature and make enough changes to morph into a champion. TNT’s crew or commentators have been of the following opinion (and Barkley is a jerk for sure but he is correct about this) have been saying for the past 2 or 3 seasons that the Thunder must make certain crucial changes to their game play, players etc & that if they don’t that the Thunder would never be able to beat either the Heat or the Spurs in playoffs. The Thunder have a great future ahead but they have to make changes because two people doing it is not enough. This a team sport not a just few. RW was out last year with an injury, no one really there to cover him. KD can’t do it all, not enough supporting cast & it cost them. The Thunder need to regroup to get past the Spurs, Heat or even Pacers. Wishing a speedy recovery out of respect to an athlete with heart & spirit. GO SPURS GO! Spurs in 5 if not a sweep!

  13. Mike says:

    Does Ibaka really have faith that he can return? Most likely he’s feeling overwhelming pressure from irresponsible team management and an uneducated fan base that can’t bear the thought of having wasted their pocket money on OKC merchandising. The Thunder would prop Ibaka up with scaffolding and sticky tape just to get him on the floor. He might make a difference in game 3 but he won’t be able to hold out long enough to get 4 wins. OKC are going to risk running their future into the ground for a chance at getting 1 win. Shame on you OKC Thunder, and shame on you OKC fans. You’re all going to jump up and down if the Thunder win game 3, and you’ll quite possibly have ruined the promising career of Serge Ibaka. Nice one.

  14. Heat fan says:

    LETS GO HEAT!!!!!

  15. okc2014 says:

    He was not faking! He will play through the injury like a man and OKC will win the next 3 games!! Go Thunder!

  16. I’m obviously a Spurs fan and I want our team to win ASAP. However, i’m also concerned about Ibaka. He is a young player with a lot of good playing years ahead of him. Playing him in game 3 might aggravate his injury to the point that it may become career threatening. The Spurs are already up 2 – 0. Considering the 2 blowout games, chances are that OKC will lose the series anyway (I don’t buy the 2012 stuff because there’s no Harden anymore). Might be best to just let Ibaka rest now and be more careful next season.

  17. okcDoke2014 says:

    Go Pacers !!!

  18. okcDoke2014 says:

    Thunder will take game 3 and with Serge back maybe next two games making it a series, I cannot see them losing game 3 at all!

  19. San Antonio Tortas says:

    Spurs fans talk the same noise every year. 2-0 back in the late 80 and early 90’s didn’t mean a series was over. Lopsided or not. Spurs just did what they were supposed to do. Blowouts don’t make the series any different. 2-0 is 2-0.

  20. cjb says:

    It’s already to late for okc with or without Ibaka who is one heck of a player. But it’s to late because the spurs are playing like a team possessed. Coach Pop got them under his spell and no one can beat them at the level they are playing right now.

  21. NBA- says:

    Its not important if he plays,the Spurs are gona 4-0 anyway

  22. Troll Logic says:

    Allow me to Start off by saying I hate the Okc n their cheap imitation of the Champs/Spurs. … Huge Spurs fan n completely bias but I a fan of the entire league (including it’s villains) So c’mon actually like Ibaka -he’s humble, tough, nvr runs his mouth, defends the rim n knocked down the mid range jumper consistently (a lost art)! I also liked Brandon Roy & Derrick Rose the leagues true MVP. but they were ruined by fan pressure and franchise that was irrresponsible enough to not perform the most important responsibility of protecting players from themselves. Artest too but I don’t like him… but this is a horrendous disservice to the fans and league. DON’T do it!!! Splitter got the same exact injury his rookie season n it ruined his whole rookie campaign. Or be boneheads n ruin a 25 yr old

  23. cw says:

    OKC lied? I am in shock……

  24. tweeze says:

    he should just relax.. i really dont think it will matter because theyre not mentally focused and the reason for that is WESTBROOK

  25. Banks says:

    Okc will win both home games and the first game in San Antonio….. Say I told you do when it happens

  26. Brink21 says:

    If he does play, will he even last? Most likely just aggravate the calf strain again.

  27. cp3 best pg says:

    Okc might get their mvp back good then no more excuses

  28. okc fan says:

    Come on Ibaka! come on okc we could do this. i believe in you guys. i’m a huge huge fan so, beat the spurs and win the nba finals. okc you guys are going to get your ring this year.

  29. newmanjohnny says:

    Hopefully Ibaka will be ready for game 3. Brooks should really consider replacing Sefolosha with Jackson and maybe replace Perkins with Adams.

  30. Frank says:

    with Ibaka or not.. the Spurs will preveil!! or got swept by the Spurs…

  31. byrd says:

    Lets hope his team mates can pull out a victory so he doesnt need to play in this game and be ready for game 4

  32. 36yrfan says:

    ….Get well and Good Luck……