Thunder coach Scott Brooks spent nearly 10 straight minutes during his pre-game media session Sunday night answering questions about Serge Ibaka’s development.
By the time the subject had stretched into its sixth minute, it led a basketball communications employee to playfully proclaim, "This is the Serge Ibaka portion of the program.”
The real show didn’t play out until 60 minutes later, when Ibaka displayed why his game is garnering so much attention. The rookie big man contributed his finest performance of his short career in Oklahoma City’s 119-99 win over Toronto inside the Ford Center, scoring 13 points with 10 rebounds and four blocked shots in 24 minutes off the bench.
It was an outing that further develops the Thunder’s dilemma. Does Oklahoma City continue to keep things simple with a player who possesses so much potential, or does the Thunder tap into that promise and turn Ibaka into a true scoring threat? While most observers think the Thunder is a big man away from serious title contention, it’s becoming more and more evident by the game that the very post presence that pundits are speaking of might already be coming off the team’s bench.
But for now, despite Ibaka’s continued growth, Brooks has him stuck on sustaining a very specific role — defense, rebounding, shot-blocking, running the floor and getting open on pick-and-rolls.
"Serge right now has to keep doing the things that we want and then maybe eventually he can maybe develop a low-post game,” Brooks said. "But right now I don’t see that happening, not because he doesn’t have it. It just takes awhile to understand that you’re not just playing 1-on-1.