We owe the San Antonio Spurs an apology. Before the series started, and the Thunder announced that Serge Ibaka would not play due to his strained calf, the Spurs responded with skepticism. A believe-it-when-we-see-it attitude.
And sure enough, Ibaka didn’t even make the trip to San Antonio. The Spurs looked paranoid.
But now comes word from Thunder headquarters that Ibaka is listed as “day-to-day” and could play in this series. Day-to-day sounds awfully promising considering Game 3 still was 56 hours from tipoff when the press release was issued. Sounds very much like a preemptive volley to prepare for the news that Ibaka indeed will play Sunday night or Tuesday night.
The Thunder has been fairly consistent on injury announcements. If someone will play or might play, the Thunder generally says nothing. If someone won’t play, the Thunder talks. Says so. Saying so on Ibaka was a clear indication that he was indeed out.
But now comes the backpedaling, and there’s no reason to believe anything but the stated reason – dramatic improvement by Ibaka. There would be advantage in proclaiming a doom-and-gloom scenario, only to have to withdraw a few days later.
The Thunder has had two straight postseasons – and a regular season, too – to deal with injuries in the wake of the Derrick Rose mess in Chicago. Rose suffered a torn ACL knee injury in the 2012 playoffs. He missed the entire next season, and the last few weeks of the season, including playoffs, was devoted to wide speculation on whether Rose could play, and if he didn’t, why not? It became a huge issue in Chicago, calling into question Rose’s dedication and commitment. The Bulls were complicit, because they weren’t particularly declarative themselves.
The Thunder has been declarative. Russell Westbrook hurt? He’s out, the Thunder said last spring, and Westbrook most certainly was. Ibaka hurt? He’s out, the Thunder said this spring, and it appears OKC might have jumped the gun. But the Thunder prefers that kind of sheepishness to wide speculation on when Ibaka is returning and why he hasn’t returned yet.