Oklahoma City Thunder: Serge Ibaka dedicated summer to getting better

The Thunder's defensive specialist has become consistent in several areas. All can be attributed to offseason work.
by Darnell Mayberry Published: October 21, 2012

photo - Oklahoma City's Serge Ibaka (9) reacts after being called for a foul during the NBA preseason basketball game between the Oklahoma City Thunder and the Denver Nuggets at the Chesapeake Energy Arena, Sunday, Oct. 21, 2012. Photo by Sarah Phipps, The Oklahoman
Oklahoma City's Serge Ibaka (9) reacts after being called for a foul during the NBA preseason basketball game between the Oklahoma City Thunder and the Denver Nuggets at the Chesapeake Energy Arena, Sunday, Oct. 21, 2012. Photo by Sarah Phipps, The Oklahoman

“That kind of stuff is coming natural because I played a lot in the summer,” Ibaka said.

On Sunday night in the Thunder's 108-101 win over Denver, Ibaka confidently stood behind the 3-point arc in the left corner and drained both attempts in the game's first six minutes. He joked that he's not quite ready to add his name in the 3-point contest.

“I'm not going that far,” he said, laughing. “That's too much for me.”

Ibaka is still happy to just do his job, which will continue to be rebounding, blocking shots and running the floor for early offense. But as this preseason schedule snakes to its end, you can't help but start to think about how Ibaka's offensive development will impact the Thunder.

With Ibaka, Sefolosha and Kendrick Perkins flanking Russell Westbrook and Kevin Durant, the Thunder still has three defensive-minded players in its first five. In the past, that's put enormous pressure on the team's two All-Stars to generate points while essentially ignoring their other three teammates.

But Ibaka's improved range, passing and ability to read defenses can transform him into the third scoring threat the Thunder sorely lacks. As he evolves this season, Ibaka's offense also can help alleviate pressure that James Harden and the second unit often has to be a spark.

It's now up to his Thunder teammates to take advantage of Ibaka's growing skill set.

Ibaka appears ready, willing and able.

“Serge is a very determined athlete,” said Thunder coach Scott Brooks, “and he has a lot of pride … He just has that inner drive to always perform at a high level.”


by Darnell Mayberry
OKC Thunder Senior Reporter
Darnell Mayberry grew up in Langston, Okla. and is now in his third stint in the Sooner state. After a year and a half at Bishop McGuinness High, he finished his prep years in Falls Church, Va., before graduating from Norfolk State University in...
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