By Jeff Caplan, NBA.com
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.”