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NBA Finals: Serge Ibaka gets his message across to Thunder

Ibaka, the man of many languages, gives his teammates a loud — and clear — pep talk.
by Mike Sherman Published: June 20, 2012

MIAMI, Fla. — So it's come to this: The power forward who blocks shots in five languages, the guy whose comments about LeBron James' defense got lost in translation, is giving motivational speeches.

“In English, actually,” said James Harden.

Should the Thunder write the greatest comeback story in NBA Finals history and rally back from a 3-1 deficit against the Miami Heat, Serge Ibaka's comments to and about Harden are bound for embellishment.

Think Nelson Mandela in “Invictus” meets “Knute Rockne All-American.”

For perspective, we go to Thunder center/sage Kendrick Perkins.

“Serge has some positive things to say to James today,” Perk deadpanned, but with feeling.

Said Ibaka: “I wanted to address a message to my teammates that we need to stick together and we need to believe that we can do it. We addressed Kevin, guys who can make some crazy plays and make us all achieve better.

“My message was to make them to believe that we can do it because we've been working hard to be here. We still have one more chance. It's not over yet. We believe all together, and we will try to go for it again tomorrow.”

Is it all talk? We'll know tonight, but consider Ibaka's speech the oratory equivalent of the Thunder's man-down, hand-down credo. You don't get much more down than The Beard has been this week in South Beach. The People's Choice for playmaker at crunch time has the misfortune of playing perhaps the worst back-to-back offensive games of his career with the world watching.

His consecutive 2-of-10 shooting performances coupled with indecisive, hesitant play have made it easy to blame Harden for Oklahoma City's predicament.

On a day when many were, Air Congo swooped in to tell Harden he believes.

“He (Ibaka) said I have to go out there and attack, be a beast, be a monster out there on the court,” Harden said. “That really meant a lot. That really got me up a little bit.”

Thunder general manager Sam Presti called after Game 4 to remind Harden why he drafted him No. 3 overall. And the Sixth Man of the Year is confident he'll be that player again, in this series, Thursday night, at American Airlines Arena.

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by Mike Sherman
Sports Editor
Mike Sherman is sports editor of The Oklahoman, where he has a combined 18 years of service during two stints as a writer and an editor. He covered high school sports for The Oklahoman from 1984-93. He also worked as a news writer for the...
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