Oklahoma City Thunder: Serge Ibaka’s competitiveness hailed
Serge Ibaka started talking about his new contract, and he started thinking people, and soon he was thanking everyone. It was a cool moment of humanity that belied what Serge is on the court. One competitiveness rascal.
That was the theme of Monday’s press conference, in which Ibaka, Scotty Brooks and Sam Presti chatted about the four-year, $49-million extension that kicks in next summer.
“He gets to a level of competitiveness on a daily basis that not too many people can get to,” Presti said.
I don’t know that we’ve ever completely clued in to the level competitiveness that Presti spoke of, but we absolutely can relate to this. Ibaka is one serious dude. He is serious about basketball.
“He’s a serious player,” Presti said. “He studies the game. He cares about understanding his performance.”
Presti said Ibaka’s seriousness was exhibited by his decision to stay in Europe for the 2008-09 season. Presti drafted Ibaka 24th overall, but Ibaka decided to stay in Spain that season, which was Kevin Durant’s rookie season. The franchise from Seattle to Oklahoma City the next summer, and Ibaka came over then.
Presti said such wisdom is “not normal … most guys are in a hurry to get here, get what they can.” But Ibaka has made wise decisions for such a young player (he was 19 when drafted). Rather than languish on an NBA bench or even play in the D-League, Ibaka stayed in Spain and honed his game.
“There’s a wisdom to him,” Presti said. “Maybe you get wisdom when you have 18 brothers and sisters. Maybe you’re a survivalist when you’ve had to learn languages. You don’t get through that unless you have a lot of pride.
“It comes down to this. There’s a disciplined work ethic I think he has that I don’t think you can teach. He hasn’t had anything handed to him. There’s been plenty of nights when things didn’t go his way, but that doesn’t change his approach the next day.
“There’s a competitiveness that people have a hard time sustaining. Sometimes it gets the better of him; he’ll be the first to tell you that. But that’s a hard trait to find.”
One thing that goes along with competitiveness, or maybe from where that competitiveness flows, is that pride of which Presti spoke. Ibaka if fueled from within.
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