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.
The time off during the All-Star break did Dwyane Wade some good.
The Bulls guard turned back the clock on Friday night, leading the Bulls with 23 points and topping it off with this dunk that proved to be the dagger, sealing a Chicago win. The Suns were convinced Wade was going to run the shot clock way down before making his move and they lollygagged into position — so he just blew past everyone for the poster slam.
The Bulls won 128-121. Devin Booker led the Suns with 27.
Atlanta’s DeMarre Carroll picked up a deserved flagrant for this foul.
With a couple of minutes left to go in the second quarter, Isaiah Thomas made the steal when DeMar DeRozan lost the ball on a drive, and Thomas was off to the races. Trying to prevent a lay-up, Carroll decided to foul Thomas far from the basket, but did so with a forearm shove that sent Thomas sprawling on the ground.
Thomas got up and had words, as did Jae Crowder.
Carroll got a flagrant and a technical, Thomas and Crowder each picked up technicals for jumping in.
When Stephen Curry wore a headband through the All-Star Game last weekend, West coach Steve Kerr jokingly called him “Seth” all night.
Dallas’ Seth Curry came out of the week-long break playing like an All-Star. He dropped 31 on the Minnesota Timberwolves Friday night, a career high for him. He hit 13-of-17 from the field, including three from beyond the arc, but did a lot of his damage in the midrange.
It wasn’t enough, the Timberwolves got a comfortable 97-84 win behind 27 points from Andrew Wiggins and 26 from Karl-Anthony Towns. Nerlens Noel was not yet with his new team in time to play for the Mavs in this game.
LOS ANGELES (AP) — Kawhi Leonard scored 21 points despite foul trouble and the San Antonio Spurs shook off the rust from a nine-day layoff to beat the Los Angeles Clippers 105-97 on Friday night for their third straight win.
Pau Gasol added 17 points and 11 rebounds off the bench in his return from a 15-game absence because of a fractured finger. LaMarcus Aldridge had 15 points and 11 rebounds, and Dewayne Dedmon grabbed 12 rebounds.
Blake Griffin scored 29 points for the Clippers, who have dropped consecutive games to the league’s two winningest teams since the All-Star break ended. They lost by 10 points at Golden State a night earlier. The Spurs have the league’s second-best record at 44-13.
Chris Paul added 17 points in his return after missing five weeks with a torn ligament in his left thumb.