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OKC Thunder: Serge Ibaka in the spotlight, struggling early

OKLAHOMA CITY THUNDER — Through two games this season, it's obvious the Thunder has made a concerted effort to get Serge Ibaka the ball in the post and on the drive. The only problem: he's struggling in those areas so far.
by Anthony Slater Published: November 2, 2013

With the Thunder making a more concerted effort to get him the ball in both face-up and post isolation, he'll likely take more shots in his cold areas.

With experience will come improvement. But in the first two games, he looked uncomfortable in those spots, firing up some errant floaters and badly air balling a hook shot.

Some will argue his struggles have to do with the absence of Russell Westbrook.

And there is plenty of validity to that point. OKC's All-Star point guard makes life easier for everybody. But particularly Ibaka, who thrives off Westbrook's ability to find him in rhythm for mid-range jumpers out of the two-man game.

In the 11 games Westbrook has missed with injury, Ibaka has shot 34 percent.

“We need him to do (the pick-and-pop),” Brooks said of Ibaka. “That's what he's really good at. There's no question that he has expanded his offensive game, but he still has to do what he's good at. He's one of the best pick-and-pops in the league.”

But even when Westbrook returns, the Thunder will likely still feature Ibaka in isolation sets.

With Ibaka now receiving more than $12 million annually, OKC is committed to his long-term development. And with his natural athleticism and youth, there's still plenty of room to grow.

But that eye toward the future may cause an efficiency dip in the present.

(Related article: Video breakdown of Serge Ibaka's struggles)

by Anthony Slater
Thunder Beat Writer
Anthony Slater started on the Thunder beat in the summer of 2013, joining after two years as's lead sports blogger and web editor. A native Californian, Slater attended Sonoma State for two years before transferring to Oklahoma State in...
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