Los Angeles Clippers v Oklahoma City Thunder - Game Five

Thunder’s Serge Ibaka out for rest of playoffs with calf injury


This is a punch to the gut of the Oklahoma City Thunder.

Or more accurately, a sweep of the leg.

OKC’s starting power forward Serge Ibaka is out for the remainder of the playoffs with a calf injury sustained in the third quarter of Game 6 against the Clippers, the team announced. He left the court at the time and went to the locker room, not returning to the game in the Thunder’s eventual series-clinching win.

An MRI on Friday confirmed the injury was severe enough to end his season.

“We are obviously disappointed for Serge, as he is a tremendous competitor, and we know how badly he wants to be on the court with his teammates,” Thunder General Manager Sam Presti said in a released statement. “At this point it is important that our team directs its concentration and energy towards preparation and execution for our upcoming series. As with all teams, our group has confronted different challenges. It is our collective experience that we will call on to ensure that we play to our capabilities.”

Ibaka averaged 12.2 points on 61.6 percent shooting, plus having 7.3 rebounds and 2.2 blocks a game these playoffs — but those numbers don’t even begin to tell the story. He is the athletic, shot-blocking anchor to their defense.

Against the Spurs in recent years the Thunder have had success because of their length and athleticism, particularly on defense. The Thunder tend to stay back and protect the paint on defense, but because of the length and quickness of guys like Ibaka, Kevin Durant and Thabo Sefolosha they can still get out and contest. That will not happen as much now. Plus, Ibaka has often been the third leading scorer for the Thunder, a reliable option when the defense collapses on Durant and Russell Westbrook.

Expect to see Scott Brooks try some Kevin Durant at the four against the Spurs.

Also, in Game 6 against L.A., after Ibaka went down, the Thunder had real success with a Nick Collison and Steven Adams front line. Those two are going to get a real chance, too.

But it’s going to be hard for any of them to make up for Ibaka.

Byron Scott doesn’t care about exhausting Lakers in preseason

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The Warriors use wearable technology to track players and have rested them when the data revealed fatigue. Gregg Popovich is holding relatively healthy Spurs out of practice. Heck, Popovich doesn’t even send himself to every preseason games.

Meanwhile, with the Lakers…

Lakers coach Byron Scott, via Baxter Holmes of ESPN:

“I don’t necessarily care about tired legs in preseason,” Scott said. “I think everything that we’ve done thus far will pay off at the end of the day. You’ve got some guys that might have tired legs and [are] a little worn out, but all the running as far as getting into that physical condition that we need to get into, I think in December and January, it will pay off.

“So I’m not necessarily worried about guys having tired legs in preseason. They’ll just have to kind of fight through that fatigue part of it. And I think mentally it gets them a little stronger anyway.”

Mike Bresnahan of the Los Angeles Times:

The Lakers coach has a reputation for demanding a lot of running in the preseason. It’s important in his mind because the Lakers will be better conditioned than other teams down the road.

Players, predictably, aren’t as enthused about it.

Bresnahan quotes just two players, Brandon Bass and D'Angelo Russell, and neither expressed much resistance to Scott’s methods. But I trust Bresnahan to read the team’s pulse.

I also think Scott is right: Fighting through fatigue builds mental toughness. But it also makes players tired, and it’s not the only way to instill toughness. The Warriors are tough. The  Spurs are tough. They didn’t have to run their players into the ground to get that way.

Scott loves to project himself as old-school and anti-analytic. Thankfully for the Lakers, his actual methods aren’t as bad as he conveys. For example, he said the Lakers would take an absurdly low 10-15 3-pointers per game last season. In reality, they hoisted nearly 19 per game, 25th in the league. That might not have been enough for that roster, but at least it wasn’t leaps and bounds below the norm.

So, I’m not convinced Scott is pushing the Lakers as hard as he wants everyone to believe. But he’s  clearly giving them a bigger workload than many teams.

If the Lakers are playing relevant games late in the season, this could come back to bite them. On the bright side, they probably won’t have to worry about that problem.

Tony Parker wants to play six more seasons with Spurs

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Tony Parker revealed a plan nearly two years ago to play until he’s 38.

Coming off his worst season since his rookie year, the Spurs point guard is sticking to that goal.

Parker, via Marc J. Spears of Yahoo Sports:

“The Spurs know I want to play until I’m 38,” Parker told Yahoo Sports in a recent phone interview. “That will be 20 seasons for me. That’s my goal. This year is No. 15. And if I’m lucky enough and I’m healthy, hopefully I can play 20 seasons and then I’ll be ready to retire.”

That seems pretty ambitious, no matter how you handle the conflicting math. (Parker is 33. If he plays 20 seasons, he’ll spend most of his final season at age 39 and turn 40 during the playoffs.)

Parker is already showing signs of slippage. Many of his key numbers were down last season, including ESPN’s real-plus minus, where he quietly slipped from 12th to 67th among point guards.

But Gregg Popovich is very liberal with resting his players, and Parker won’t have to carry too much of the load. Tim Duncan and Manu Ginobili will probably retire before Parker, but the Spurs will still have Kawhi Leonard and LaMarcus Aldridge.

I wouldn’t count on it, but it’s possible Parker lasts that long.

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