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.
The Spurs expected something like this.
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.
Minnesota is everyone’s team to watch this coming season — Karl-Anthony Towns, Andrew Wiggings, strong supporting cast, now all coached by Tom Thibodeau.
But they already were a lot of fun last season. Check out their Top 10 plays from last season.
This is the clearest sign yet that Chris Bosh is going to suit up for the Miami Heat this season.
The past two years Bosh has missed the end of the season with a very serious blood clotting issue. He has been working out, saying this week he’s hooping. He’s been frustrated with how the Heat have handled his health situation, including leaving this season hanging. But it sounds like the owner wants him to be ready to play — and owners get what owners want.
There are questions still to be answered: Will Bosh still be on blood thinners, and will he come off them on game days? Will there be restrictions on his travel? Will there be restrictions on his minutes?
But Bosh wants to play, and it sounds like the Heat owner is down with that.
The Heat are a much better team with Bosh on the court — he averaged 19.1 points and 7.4 rebounds per game, shot 36.7 percent from three and a true shooting percentage of 57.1, plus he had a PER of 20.2. He was an All-Star, but couldn’t play in the game because of the clotting issue.
With Bosh, the Heat are in the mix for a playoff spot this season. The question is, will they have him for the full season.
Carl Landry and Tibor Pleiss are going to get paid this year — they both had fully guaranteed contracts for this season.
But they are not going to be playing for the Philadelphia 76ers this season — both were waived by the team on Thursday. This was not unexpected. Both players salaries will count against the cap for the Sixers (they are still $16 million below the league salary floor).
Once they clear waivers, both players will be unrestricted free agents (Landry likely will latch on with another team for the league minimum, Pleiss may as well or could head overseas).
Landry will still make $6.5 million (fourth highest on the Sixers) but would have been battling for minutes in crowded and young frontcourt with Ben Simmons, Dario Saric, Nerlens Noel, and Jahlil Okafor (among other potential players, for example the Sixers are high on Anthony Barber).
Pleiss is in the same boat in terms of minutes, he was acquired from the Jazz along with a couple of second round draft picks just a few days back (the Sixers sent Utah Kendall Marshall, who was promptly waived). That trade was really about getting the picks — a very Sam Hinkie move by Bryan Colangelo.
This didn’t move the needle much on the Sixers season.
This is a huge season — a contract kind of season of sorts — for Noah Vonleh in Portland. The team has an option on him next season (the third of his rookie deal), and to impress people he is going to have to earn minutes at the four in front of Al-Farouq Aminu, Moe Harkless, Meyers Leonard, and Ed Davis.
The Blazers have high hopes for Vonleh, he was a central part of the Nicolas Batum trade with Charlotte. However, watching Vonleh at Summer League — 12 points a game on 46.3 percent shooting, 8.8 rebounds a game in more than 30 minutes a night — he didn’t show the development anyone had hoped to see. He should have dominated at that level. He didn’t.
Now there another injury setback for him.
He should be good to go around the start of training camp at the end of September.
But he can’t afford a slow start in training camp (that set him back his rookie season). He needs to show what he can do from day one, or Portland is going to move on without him.