Ibaka making final strides for Game 3


VIDEO: Serge Ibaka talks with the media after Sunday’s shootaround

OKLAHOMA CITY – To quote the introduction from “The Six Million Dollar Man“: “Gentlemen, we can rebuild him. We have the technology. We have the capability to make the world’s first bionic man. Serge Ibaka will be that man.”

The Thunder’s power forward might not come back better, stronger, faster, but Ibaka, fighting all odds to defeat a Grade 2 calf strain sustained just 10 days ago, appears set to rejoin his now-desperate Oklahoma City Thunder teammates for tonight’s Game 3 of the Western Conference Finals (8:30 ET, TNT).

“The most important thing against this team is defense. I’m sure you saw the last two games in San Antonio,” Ibaka said Sunday morning after going through his first workout with teammates since the injury on May 15. “So we really need a defensive mind tonight.”

Ibaka said the Thunder, with or without him, are ready to put a charge into this so-far lopsided series.

“You are going to see tonight,” Ibaka said. “You are going to see tonight.”

Ibaka was ruled out for the remainder of the postseason just nine days ago. Just five days ago he said he couldn’t even walk. Now, with the help of round-the-clock treatment and the power to submerge the considerable pain with great fortitude, the 6-foot-10, 245-pound Ibaka seeks to reclaim the paint the San Antonio Spurs have owned in consecutive blowouts for a 2-0 series lead.

It certainly seems a formality now that Ibaka will be introduced in the Thunder’s starting lineup tonight. It will surely ignite a deafening roar from the 18,000 OKC faithful, and potentially provide the Thunder an emotional spark they need.

“I remember when the doctor told me I would not be able to play in the playoffs, I cried,” Ibaka said. “Because it’s something I was not really looking for. I always enjoy playing with my teammates, I always enjoy playing basketball. When the doctor told me you are out for the playoffs, it was hard for me. So right now to be able to be back and have an opportunity to play tonight, it feels great, it feels great.”

During the shootaround, Ibaka said he ran defensive and offensive plays with his teammates and later he went through a round of jump-shooting in front of reporters. His accuracy was on point from all angles, but he noticeably avoided putting much pressure on his left leg upon landing. And he has still done very little running up and down the floor.

“I tried to move a little bit this morning with my teammates and I like I say, I feel better today than I did yesterday,” Ibaka said. “So that’s most important.”

He said the plan now is to wait and see how his calf reacts to the increased activity and then make a decision about playing tonight. He flatly stated that the final call to play tonight is “my decision.” That could indicate that team doctors have already given him the green light.

When asked if Ibaka practiced with the team this morning, Kevin Durant played it coyly, saying, “I don’t remember.” Russell Westbrook had a bit better recollection: “He moves fine, he moves well. He’s taking his time and we’ll see how he feels.”

Asked if he believes Ibaka will be able to help the Thunder, Westbrook mocked laughter as if to suggest the question was preposterous.

“What was our record when we play with him? He only missed two games, that’s it,” Westbrook said. “That’s a funny question.”

As Ibaka said, his most-needed contributions are in reversing the trend in the paint, where the highly efficient, ball-moving Spurs have scored 120 points in the first two games, and even out lopsided numbers on the glass. Before this series, the Thunder had won 10 of the last 12 games against the Spurs with the athletic intimidating, shot-blocking Ibaka keeping San Antonio’s paint production greatly in check.

But just how effective can he really be playing on a calf muscle that remains painful and far from 100 percent?

That is the six-million-dollar question.

20 Comments

  1. okc2014 says:

    Go Thunder! Ibaka’s fake injury will boost everything! We’ll have Adams trying to get under Duncan’s skin next game and then BOOM! Finals we come!

  2. Ceeray says:

    Its all planned by okc. They issue a press release that ibaka will be out for CF but actually he just need to sit out 2 or 3 games. Now that okc is down 2 games, they activate ibaka.and what a moral booster to their players and fans. But still spurs in 5

  3. NO DOG IN FIGHT says:

    This is pathetic; OKC is not going to beat the Spurs period!!!!!! The “real” Spur killer was Harden, OKC lost their chance once he left, the did and will handle Ibaka EASILY…..

  4. james carter says:

    sometimes the window opens just long enough to get a championship and then it slams…….. Ibaka may hurt himself seriously! However, he might propel his team onto an NBA title! The window won’t stay open forever! Maybe it’s worth the try! Maybe.

  5. rene says:

    with or without IBAKA,, SPURS are always a playoff team and ready to get to the finals

  6. tony says:

    The same thing was said two years ago. Back then San Antonio was winning 20+ games streak…History will repeat…..

  7. NBA- says:

    The Spurs are gonna win 4-0 this serise the OKC cant do nothing even with an injured Ibaka

  8. Laker fan says:

    It was a trick, the Spurs did not go for it. If OKC was up 2 games to none then he would of not played. But it will not matter the Spurs will win the series.

  9. okc2014 says:

    I guess we will all see what kind of impact Serge Ibaka will make. Go Thunder!

  10. David says:

    Grade 2 is no joke. He might feel fine from a pain management . His tissue is still weak from the micro tear. I just hope he won’t detach his calf tonight

  11. gene says:

    This situation really sheds light on the imbalance between players and personnel i.e. staff, owners doctors etc. Scott Brooks, the coach, has failed miserably; his job is to devise a scheme or system of play that compensates for Ibaka’s absence. The onus is always on the player (s) to “step-up” or “sacrifice” but everyone else gets credit in the event of success. Ibaka is not making a wise decision, although I hope things turn out well for him, in rushing himself back into the fray. If he has been advised that no further injury can occur, what happens if they are wrong and further damage do occurs, he will simply be tossed aside to the bins of damaged goods.

  12. Mr. Unbelievable says:

    “…done very little running up and down the floor…” and he’s expected to play and make a positive difference in a Conf Finals match? Give it to Serge, his recovery and willingness to help his team is impressive, but he should not be coming back so soon. OKC isn’t going to get the lift they need from him in his current physical state – better to sit him out for a while and make sure he comes back 100% healthy instead of risking a more serious injury. Maybe bring him back in the Finals if OKC makes it there…although Spurs will probably take it in 5 or 6 with the way they are playing right now

  13. okc fan says:

    yeah he is

    • THISISTHUNDER says:

      the thunder need ibaka more than anything becuase thier other big man is erkins and hes been through a lot of injuries

  14. ray kin says:

    inb4 he plays….
    inb4 they lose….
    spurs are on a roll, they’re on an entirely different level now….

  15. jdub455 says:

    forcing him to play can only make matters worst… as smart as the spurs are, they wud only attack him on the defensive end to test him… and anyway this series is done already… the championship scenario will be a rematch of last year but this time, the challengers has homecourt advantage…

    • okckd35 says:

      If the spurs win tonite then yes the series is pretty much over. All the spurs have done is win at home like they are supposed to. The thunder are a pretty good home team too. I bet u were one of the fans calling sweep in 2012 just to see okc take 4 in a row.

    • Roy says:

      What this guy said ^