Serge Ibaka comes from a different world than any other NBA player. Brazzaville, Republic of the Congo to be specific. A world of refugees and war crimes. He was born number 15 out of 18 siblings. Yes, you read that right, 18. For him, basketball was a real escape.
He came to the NBA with a ton of raw skills, a athletic fit with the young Thunder, but almost no English.
“Last June, when we first brought him over, I had, quite frankly, just a tough time communicating with him,” said Thunder coach Scott Brooks. “He spoke very little English. It was like [he starts with hand gestures] “run fast,” “jump high,” “block shot.” It was really just a lot of visuals …
“Now I can talk to him, I might have to say it twice or three times to make sure he understands it. But he is fearless, a fierce competitor.”
Whatever Brooks has done has worked, Ibaka has grown throughout the season and been a revelation in the playoffs, dominating Lamar Odom for the first four games.
“Ibaka is a talented athlete, he’s done a really good job on Lamar,” Phil Jackson admitted.
Ibaka’s also taking weekly English classes, Brooks said. Pretty soon his English may be good enough for Jackson to start trying to play mind games with him through the media.
Months into his first and only season with the Kings, Rajon Rondo declared himself to be the first veteran teammate ever respected by DeMarcus Cousins.
As he deals with new problems with the Bulls, Rondo is again trashing his former Sacramento teammates.
Rondo, via David Aldridge of NBA.com:
“It’s just, maybe, the personnel in this situation,” Rondo says in response. “I mean, last year — I hate to keep talking about last year — but you couldn’t name three people on my team, the Sacramento Kings, and I led the league in assists. You know? I don’t know. I believe so (that his skill set still has value), given the right personnel and the flow of the game.”
Rondo is right: Playing with Jimmy Butler and Dwyane Wade is not ideal, and his passing was an asset to the Kings.
He’s also proving his critics right: He’s too often a jerk.
Rondo has declined significantly overall, particularly on defense. His plus passing is barely enough to make him rotation-worthy. It’s not enough for teams cast aside his hardheadedness.
But is Rondo right that you can’t name three members of the 2015-16 Kings? Take this quiz to find out:
Sleeved NBA jerseys sell poorly. Players dislike them.
So, the NBA switching from adidas to Nike is apparently an excuse to ditch the sleeves.
Sara Germano of The Wall Street Journal, via Paul Lukas of Uni Watch:
Nike, meanwhile, is expected to present its initial NBA jersey designs to retailers beginning this week. The company said it doesn’t plan to produce sleeved jerseys, a style debuted by Adidas in 2013 that received mixed reviews from players and fans.
Whether or not sleeves were introduced for ad space, uniform advertisements are still coming. The ads can fit on standard jerseys, no problem.
At this point, there’s just little to no upside for sleeved jerseys.
Nostalgia will treat sleeves better than present-day evaluations, but until we look back wistfully on this mostly failed experiment, good riddance.
Despite sounding like he wanted a conversation with Phil Jackson, Carmelo Anthony said he hadn’t spoken with the Knicks president since Phil Jackson mouthpiece Charley Rosen wrote Anthony no longer fit in New York.
It hasn’t been for a lack of effort.
Ramona Shelburne of ESPN:
If you’re trying to keep up with the Jackson-Anthony feuds, their previous meeting came after Jackson publicly critiqued Anthony’s ball-hogging.
That affair should’ve provided a sense of Jackson’s communication skills. This latest episode only reinforces it.
The Knicks were in New York on Thursday, when Rosen’s article was published. They played in Toronto on Sunday and returned home for a game yesterday. That’s plenty of time for Jackson and Anthony to talk.
Why hasn’t it happened yet?
With seven and a half minutes left, Isaiah Thomas drained a 3-pointer, held up his left wrist and stared at it.
It was time.
Thomas scored 17 fourth-quarter points in the Celtics’ win over the Hornets yesterday.
“It doesn’t surprise me,” Thomas said. “It just surprises everybody else.”
It shouldn’t any longer.
Boston has won seven of eight, and in that span, Thomas has scored most of the Celtics’ fourth-quarter points. He has pushed his fourth-quarter scoring average to 10.1 for the season – putting him on track to break the modern-era record.
Kobe Bryant scored 9.5 fourth-quarter points per game in 2006, the most in the previous 20 years (as far back as NBA.com has data). The leaderboard:
Russell Westbrook is also on track to surpass Kobe and join this rarified air. LeBron James, Tracy McGrady, Kevin Durant and Dwyane Wade are the only other players to average even eight fourth-quarter points per game in a season over the previous 20 years. Not even Michael Jordan (7.1 in 1997, 7.3 in 1998) did it.
Boston’s offense has blasted into the stratosphere with Thomas on the court in the fourth quarter, scoring 122.1 points per 100 possessions. However, the Celtics allow even more with him on the floor in the final period (122.8 points per 100 possessions). The 5-foot-9 point guard has limits.
But where those limits exist when it comes to his clutch scoring – we haven’t found them yet.