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OKC Thunder: Serge Ibaka needs to be better than ever

Entering his fifth season, Ibaka must now take on the role of third scoring option. More than that, it's time he also blossoms into the Thunder's best post defender. Oklahoma City's championship hopes might depend on it.
by Darnell Mayberry Modified: October 8, 2013 at 10:00 am •  Published: October 7, 2013

Ibaka said he took three weeks off this summer before getting back in the gym focusing on his improvement. Entering this season, Ibaka said he wants to become a better defensive rebounder, post defender and passer. After unveiling a smooth 3-point shot last season, Ibaka also said he wants to improve his accuracy from that distance.

Though he didn't spend time under the tutelage of Hall of Fame big man Hakeem Olajuwon this summer, Ibaka said he did work on post moves and putting the ball on the floor.

“I'm sure I will be better than last year because I put in a lot of work this summer,” Ibaka said.

Last year's postseason, Ibaka said, taught him that he needed to learn to be a threat without Russell Westbrook. Without his starting point guard, the man responsible for 38 percent of his field goals, Ibaka's scoring average fell a shade in the postseason and his shooting percentage plummeted.

“Without Russell we learned a lot last year,” Ibaka said. “That's why I'm sure each one of us worked on his game. I've been working on my game trying to create my shot and make sure everything is right if Russ is (available) or not … I hope it will pay off.”

Brooks said Ibaka's improvement with his left hand has been evident in practices.

“A lot of guys are strong one hand. But to be a really, really good player you've got to be able to put the ball on the floor with either hand,” Brooks said. “But he's done a great job of finishing around the basket with his left hand. You can tell that was a point of emphasis on his workouts all summer long.”

Defensively, teammates also have seen growth in Ibaka.

“I think he's really locking in,” said Kendrick Perkins. “I can tell he's really focusing on sliding his feet, getting down, guarding, talking. I think the biggest thing I've seen is his communication got a whole lot better as far as calling the defense and talking the defense. So that's a good thing.”