Power forward Serge Ibaka seems to have progressed at warp speed in his three years with the Thunder.
He became a starter at age 21 midway through his second season, finished as runner-up for NBA Defensive Player of the Year last season and was rewarded with a four-year, $49-million extension to remain with OKC.
Is it reasonable to expect Ibaka to continue to improve at the same rate of speed the next three years, or will some patience be required?
“Why wait?” Ibaka said Monday at a news conference announcing his contract extension. “I will work hard and I believe. … I know where I come from and I know where I'm going.”
Thunder coach Scott Brooks said he expects Ibaka to prepare in the same manner he has in the past.
“It's a fast rate at which he's improved rapidly the last three years,” Brooks said. “We're going to keep pushing him because he competes, he works, he gets after it every day in practice. We're going to challenge him to keep getting better, keep improving.
“We feel that defensively he's one of the best in the league, but he can improve in those areas. He can understand what we do defensively much better. Even his shot-blocking ability, hopefully, he'll get better in that area. His improvement is based on the work he puts in.”
Does Ibaka consider himself a patient person?
“OK, I want to tell the truth, all right?” said Ibaka, who turns 23 next Tuesday. “No, I'm not … but that's a good thing.”
NO HAKEEM VISIT
Ibaka did not join Hall of Fame center Hakeem Olajuwon for workout sessions this summer and said he will not do so before training camp, which starts Oct. 2.
A time crunch prevented Ibaka from committing up to four days with Olajuwon, but Ibaka said he is interested in working with Olajuwon next summer.
“I didn't have time this summer because of the (Spanish) national team,” Ibaka said, “but next year, I really, really would like to work with him.”
Earlier this summer, Olajuwon offered to tutor Ibaka outside of Houston with the goal of helping the Thunder power forward develop more of an offensive game.
Olajuwon averaged 21.8 points, 11.1 rebounds and 3.3 blocked shots during his 18-year career and has worked with several players, including LeBron James, Kobe Bryant and Amar'e Stoudemire to improve each of their low-post skills.