Thunder will depend on Kevin Durant to make up for loss of Serge Ibaka

Hope is not lost in Thunderland. Let’s see. Ibaka’s strained calf robs the Thunder of a tall, athletic, shot-blocking, shot-making, rebounding wonder. Those things are hard to find. Unless you look four lockers down from Ibaka’s. That’s where Kevin Durant sits.
by Berry Tramel Modified: May 16, 2014 at 7:00 pm •  Published: May 16, 2014

Scotty Brooks likes to go with a small lineup anyway. He could go full time, if he likes. Play Kendrick Perkins, Steven Adams, Nick Collison, whoever fits best at the time, at center, and let the Spurs figure out what to do with Durant as a full-time power forward.

It’s not ideal. It’s not as good as having Ibaka still on the court, threatening to reject Tony Parker’s underhanded layups or Kawhi Leonard’s drives. But necessity is the mother of invention.

We’ve already seen Durant remake himself this very season. When Russell Westbrook was lost for big chunks of the year, Durant became facilitator. Scored the touchdowns and quarterbacked. It was a remarkable string of performances and the prime reason he won the MVP and was able to deliver the speech of the century.

And we’ve seen playoff plagues cause other great players to transform themselves. Magic Johnson replaced the ailing Kareem Abdul-Jabbar at center in Game 6 of the 1980 NBA Finals and led the Lakers past the 76ers. LeBron James plays whatever position the Heat needs. Durant is a different player from LeBron, but Durant is no less versatile.

Worse cast scenario, the Spurs eliminate the Thunder, but Durant accumulates new skills and experience that just make him even more of a dominant player.

Brooks has other options. The emergence of Adams makes the loss of Ibaka almost bearable. Collison proved Thursday night he’s a valuable hand. Hasheem Thabeet still is 7-foot-3, still is on the Thunder roster and still is hard to shoot over. Perry Jones is an intriguing talent with Durant-like defensive skill.

But the answer to filling Ibaka’s gaping hole is the answer you get to a lot of questions concerning the Thunder.

Kevin Durant.

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 Oklahoman,...
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