NBA Playoffs: How Serge Ibaka spent his offseason getting ready for the Grizzlies' Marc Gasol and Zach Randolph

Marc Gasol definitely got the better of that matchup during the playoffs last season. While he and Randolph switched off defensively on Ibaka and Kendrick Perkins, the Memphis bigs often helped each other and doubled up when Ibaka had the ball.
by Jenni Carlson Published: April 18, 2014

Ibaka struggled.

The Thunder organization made offensive development the focus of Ibaka’s offseason work. He spent much of the summer in Las Vegas working with his longtime trainer Joe Abunassar. That’s where that grainy video came from. Abunassar and his bunch at Impact worked relentlessly on Ibaka’s offensive skills.

The result has been more consistency from 10 to 19 feet. He is shooting close to 50 percent from that area, which is up nearly 10 percentage points from early in his career. And he’s shooting a better percentage despite shooting more shots.

“His mid-range game is really, really good,” Thunder coach Scott Brooks said. “It’s been good for a while, but he’s taken his shot out to the three-point line.”

Ibaka is also better on the pick and roll and the pick and pop. Part of that is an ever-improving chemistry with Westbrook and Kevin Durant, part of it is his ability to get separation in those coverages, and part of it is his improved shooting.

“Those are the areas we worked out throughout the year with him,” Brooks said. “He’s really done a good job of coming back this year and being much better all-around offensively.”

Ibaka said, “The hardest thing in this league is to be (consistent) every night. You’ve got some people that can have 20 points, the next day they have two points. Doing it consistently … that is going to make a difference.”

Ibaka is still a work in progress. There is an occasional night when he scores less than 10 points, but those games are rarer than ever before.

There’s a chance Ibaka would’ve worked to improve his offense even if he hadn’t struggled last year against the Grizzlies. Maybe this was in the works. Maybe this was always the plan. But the motivation was kicked into high gear by what Gasol, Randolph and Co. did last spring.

“Changed my focus,” Ibaka said. “I really focused on my offense just to put myself in a position where when my team is going to need my offense, I’m going to be ready to respond, you know?”

By the time this series is over, we may all know just how much that last series transformed Ibaka.

Jenni Carlson: Jenni can be reached at 475-4125. Like her at, follow her at or view her personality page at

by Jenni Carlson
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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