Serge Ibaka reportedly on the mend, could return for Game 3
“I don’t believe it. I’ll believe it when I see it.”
These were Tony Parker’s words after being questioned by the media about Serge Ibaka’s injury last week, one that was initially reported to be essentially season-ending. The Thunder released a statement in the late afternoon on May 16, declaring their starting power forward likely out for the remainder of the postseason. I guess likely was the key word.
Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo! Sports dropped a Woj Bomb at lunch on Friday (because of course it was Woj) that Ibaka has now been upgraded to day-to-day by Oklahoma City, and that he might even be available to play in Game 3 on Sunday. Reports are the swelling in Ibaka’s left calf has gone down significantly and that the big man responded well to tests on Thursday, though there is still soreness.
Here’s the official statement from general manager Sam Presti:
“The abundance of blood and therefore swelling in Serge’s calf has reduced substantially and unexpectedly, allowing a level of movement and stability not thought possible after the initial diagnosis. Based on both imaging and physical exam, the considerable swelling in the calf indicated the likelihood of a certain degree of injury, and that established the original time frame for recovery. At present, Serge has yet to complete a full basketball workout, but is walking and doing light basketball drills. With this new information, and in an effort to keep his status current, we are now listing him as day-to-day with the understanding that there is a possibility for him to play in this series.”
Well I’ll be damned. I can assure you, the group of people least surprised by this news is the one in that San Antonio locker room. And to think, that Parker quote was met with such hostility from OKC fans who interpreted it as an accusation of dishonesty toward the Thunder. Tin-foil Tony solving conspiracy theories in his spare time, I’m sure.
Anyway, the media had a chance to ask Gregg Popovich about the newest Ibaka news on Friday afternoon.
“Shocked,” Pop elaborated. “We know Sammy (Presti). We knew (Ibaka would) be back.”
So here we go. If you’ve been conscious and coherent over the last week or so, you understand by now how much the Thunder miss Ibaka. He’s their safety net, their mistake-erasor, their rim-protector, their goaltender, their pressure valve, their stretch ‘four’ and whatever the hell else on earth you wanna call him. It’s a much different game when Ibaka is on the court. Suddenly, Russell Westbrook’s “I’m an overgrown puppy chasing a soccer ball around” defense is much less detrimental when he knows he has backup, OKC’s aggressive scrambling scheme is much more difficult to exploit and the frontcourt depth is back, allowing the Thunder to utilize their preferred big-man pairings.
The Spurs are shooting a mind-boggling 76.8 percent from inside the restricted area, and because of that assault on the rim are launching away from the perimeter at a 45-percent clip. They’ve averaged 116 points over the first two games, including a combined 120 points in the paint. So the going’s been easy for San Antonio thus far in the Western Conference Finals.
And really, who the hell knows just how effective Ibaka can be if he’s able to return? Is this like a David Lee thing from last year, when he made a couple of brief, inspirational appearances for preacher Mark Jackson during the Warriors playoff run? Was the prognosis on the injury really that far off? Out for the rest of the postseason, out for a week … meh, same difference, bro.
Regardless, this is big news, simply by virtue of the fact there’s suddenly a morale boost in Oklahoma City. If that’s the only effect this news had, it still might be worth it. San Antonio has so thoroughly dominated the Thunder through two games that any little thing like this probably helps. Ibaka’s presence would absolutely make a difference, especially if he’s effective, but the Spurs have been ready for this.
You’ve seen and heard the quotes already, and their level of play has been evident: San Antonio hasn’t relaxed one little bit, and through it all has prepared as if the OKC shot-swatting crazy man was set to play. This adds an extra element of intrigue, but isn’t that why we all watch, after all? What good is entertainment without a little fun?
We’ll keep you posted as we learn more.
Quotes courtesy of Jeff McDonald of the San Antonio Express-News.