Seattle SuperSonics general manager Sam Presti wants to be patient with Serge Ibaka, the 6-foot-10 power forward from the Republic of Congo. Ibaka, the Sonics' No. 24 overall pick in last week's NBA Draft, will continue playing in Spain next season, and Presti said the season he makes his NBA debut will largely be determined by his development.
"I wouldn't put a timeline or specifics on his arrival,” said Presti, "other than to say his development will be something that we are very focused on. And when the time is right for the team and the player, we'll know and we'll bring him over.” But Presti likes the idea of Ibaka, who doesn't turn 19 until Sept. 18, continuing his development overseas by getting steady playing time rather than rushing his NBA arrival and risking him racking up DNP-Coach's Decisions. "Having the opportunity to get a player like that in your program who can develop overseas while your team domestically is developing along the same timeline was something that we felt like would be really beneficial to our organization going forward,” Presti said. "We look at that as a tremendous opportunity.” Ibaka becomes the first international player the Sonics have drafted under Presti with the predetermined goal of allowing him to remain overseas. It's a tactic Presti learned while serving as a front-office executive for the San Antonio Spurs. The Spurs selected Argentinian guard Manu Ginobili with the second-to-last pick in the 1999 draft and didn't sign him until the 2002-03 season. San Antonio selected Argentinian forward Luis Scola with the third-to-last pick in the 2002 draft, but Scola didn't make his NBA debut until last season after the Spurs traded him to Houston. The Spurs most recently used the draft strategy in 2007 when they selected Tiago Splitter, who continues to play in Spain. "With him, it's going to be important that we continue to develop his skills from an athleticism standpoint,” Presti said of Ibaka. "We feel like he was a top tier athlete in this draft and his upside is one that we felt was significant.” Ibaka, who doesn't speak English, is becoming known for his remarkable background.