Serge Ibaka might be developing into a player other teams love to hate — and that's good for OKC

Ibaka has become an agitator, the kind of player who gets under opponents' skin, gets them off their game.
by Jenni Carlson Published: December 10, 2012
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The Thunder brass wants us to believe they've got a team of Eagle Scouts.

Stephen Jackson has told us otherwise.

The San Antonio Spurs forward threatened Serge Ibaka the other day via Twitter. The Thunder big man hadn't tweeted anything at him or done something to him. Still, Jackson popped off.


Why?

Ibaka has gotten under his skin.

That's no small thing. Jackson is a guy who prides himself on getting under other guys' skin. He hounds. He pesters. He harasses. He's not the nicest guy in the NBA.

But Ibaka has him riled.

Kendrick Perkins just might have a sidekick of mean. Ibaka doesn't have a scowl like Perk, but he seems to be antagonizing opponents all the same.

Not that there's anything wrong with that.

The Thunder front office has worked hard to bring character guys to town. Sam Presti and Co. gravitate toward players who work hard, keep their noses clean and make Oklahoma City proud.

It's been a highly successful formula.

No city loves its team more than Oklahoma City loves the Thunder. And for the Thunder to have built that bond in less than five years, it's downright amazing.

But on the court, you need some nasty.

That goes beyond toughness or grittiness or competitiveness. The Thunder gets that from Nick Collison and Russell Westbrook and Kevin Durant and so many others.

Nasty is something the Thunder didn't have until Perk showed up. He was the first guy to really have a mean streak in him, and it completely changed the way the Thunder played on the defensive end of the court.

Now, we're seeing signs of nasty in Ibaka.

It is just another piece of his evolving game. Over the past few years, he has become one of the game's best shot blockers. Then, he added that 18-foot jumper. Now, he's improved his hands and his ability to catch and finish around the basket.

As he's become a more complete player, he's become a more confident player.

And with that has come orneriness.

Last Friday night, when the Lakers were in town, Ibaka got his right arm tangled with Ron Artest's left arm during a free-throw attempt. As Ibaka turned to head up court, he popped Artest in the chest with his left arm.


by Jenni Carlson
Columnist
Jenni Carlson, a sports columnist at The Oklahoman since 1999, came by her love of sports honestly. She grew up in a sports-loving family in Kansas. Her dad coached baseball and did color commentary on the radio for the high school football...
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