Oklahoma City Thunder: What it will take to keep a blue-sky outlook

SEASON PREVIEW — A few clouds hover over the Thunder. here's why finding a silver lining could depend on the continued development of Serge Ibaka.
by Berry Tramel Published: October 27, 2013
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photo - Power forward Serge Ibaka averaged 13.2 points per game last season for the Thunder.   Photo by Chris Landsberger/Cyanotype print by Nate Billings, The Oklahoman
Power forward Serge Ibaka averaged 13.2 points per game last season for the Thunder. Photo by Chris Landsberger/Cyanotype print by Nate Billings, The Oklahoman

Ibaka's four-year scoring averages with OKC: 6.3, 9.9, 9.1, 13.2. With no Martin, the Thunder needs Ibaka to get into the 15-point range, at least. If that happens, and Reggie Jackson's apparent development continues, then suddenly the skies are turning blue again.

“You cannot put a number on what you average,” Ibaka said. “All you can do is play hard. Play hard. That's it.”

No number. But Ibaka has a plan.

“I'm trying to be more aggressive,” Ibaka said. “Try go to free throw more this year. Everybody knows I can shoot. That's my first option on offense, is shoot the ball. My coach is always asking me, if I catch the ball in the post, try to face up, and if they let you, shoot. If I don't shoot, create.”

Ibaka is an OK foul shooter; 71.3 percent for his career. But per 36 minutes, his amount of foul shots has not changed much – between 2.4 and 3.0 per game in each of his four seasons.

An aggressive Ibaka could send shivers up NBA spines. Not just offensively; rebounding, too, where Ibaka is good but has the capacity to be great. But offensive forcefulness would make Ibaka an even better player. He might find himself not only on the foul line more, but even more frequently open for those jumpers.

“Scoring, I see that he will have another jump this year,” Brooks said. “I don't know how much. But we still want to score the basketball as a group and Serge is a big part of how we score.”

Ibaka knows that.

“That's how my team needs me,” Ibaka said. “They know, the first option is always KD. But he needs some support, too. He cannot do everything by himself.”

Durant needs Westbrook. We know that. And to keep the skies blue, Westbrook needs a Harden or Martin or an improved Ibaka.

Berry Tramel: Berry can be reached at (405) 760-8080 or at btramel@opubco.com. He can be heard Monday through Friday from 4:40-5:20 p.m. on The Sports Animal radio network, including FM-98.1. You can also view his personality page at newsok.com/berrytramel.


by Berry Tramel
Columnist
Berry Tramel, a lifelong Oklahoman, sports fan and newspaper reader, joined The Oklahoman in 1991 and has served as beat writer, assistant sports editor, sports editor and columnist. Tramel grew up reading four daily newspapers — The...
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