Looks like the Oklahoma City Thunder — including coach Scott Brooks and Serge Ibaka himself — have been sandbagging.
Oklahoma City released a statement Thursday, Serge Ibaka has been listed as day-to-day and could play in the Western Conference Finals, the team announced Friday. Game 3 is Sunday in Oklahoma City.
Ibaka suffered a strained calf in Game 6 against the Los Angeles Clippers and missed the first two games of the Western Conference Finals, both blowout wins by the Spurs where Ibaka’s presence was missed on both ends of the court.
“The abundance of blood and therefore swelling in Serge’s calf has reduced substantially and unexpectedly, allowing a level of movement and stability not thought possible after the initial diagnosis…” Thunder GM Sam Presti said in a released statement. “At present, Serge has yet to complete a full basketball workout, but is walking and doing light basketball drills. With this new information, and in an effort to keep his status current, we are now listing him as day-to-day with the understanding that there is a possibility for him to play in this series.”
He may be able to return by Game 3.
OKC ran Ibaka through battery of tests on Thursday and his calf responded well. Still soreness but a Sunday Game 3 return is possible.
In the first two games, the Spurs scored 120 points total in the paint — a sign of how much the Thunder missed Ibaka’s shot blocking. In the regular season the Spurs shot just 50 percent in the restricted area against the Thunder, much of that due to Ibaka’s length. In two games this series the Spurs have gotten 58 shots in the restricted area and hit 77.6 percent of them.
However, Ibaka’s absence is missed more on the offensive end, where he is a reliable third scoring option with a mid-range shot that defenders have to respect. The Spurs have not respected Nick Collison or any other scorer on the Thunder, focusing instead on Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook, taking away easy buckets and making life generally difficult for them.
Down 2-0 a return of Ibaka might come too late to save the series for the Thunder, but it makes it far more interesting.
Joel Embiid on Monday will have an MRI on his injured left knee and is now listed as out indefinitely.
Embiid has been experiencing swelling and soreness in the left knee injury that has caused him to miss 16 out of the last 17 games. Bryan Colangelo announced back on Feb. 11 that Embiid has a minor meniscal tear. In his most recent press conference last Friday, Colangelo had targeted this Friday’s home game against the Knicks as a possibility for Embiid’s return. Now, that isn’t the case.
Embiid had been the biggest ray of hope for Philadelphia, but the 76ers shouldn’t chase watchability down the stretch. Sit Embiid until he’s fully healthy and secure the best draft position possible.
Maybe Embiid’s body just can’t handle the rigors of NBA basketball, but Philadelphia has no choice but to hope for the best with him and Simmons. And hope the nail the their first-round pick this year and get the Lakers’ first-rounder.
This could still be a dangerously good team in coming years. The Process created that potential.
But the threat of injury always looms around the corner, maybe especially so for Embiid.
Report: Knicks’ Joakim Noah likely to miss rest of season after knee surgery
Prepare for the talk next fall about Noah feeling refreshed and ready to help the Knicks.
But this surgery won’t reverse the underlying problem: Noah is a 31-year-old big man with heavy mileage. He can manage his knees, but it’s probably too late for him to regain enough athleticism to reliably contribute.
Just three years and $55 million+ remaining on his contract, which already looked like the NBA’s worst deal and is now even more unfavorable.
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