Tag: Serge Ibaka

Houston Rockets Championship Anniversary Luncheon

Hakeem Olajuwon and Dikembe Mutombo make surprise appearances for Team Africa in NBA exhibition game (VIDEO)


A contingent of current and former NBA players have spent the past week in Johannesburg, South Africa as part of the league’s annual Basketball Without Borders clinic. But this year’s edition of the event is special in that it includes the NBA’s first-ever officially sanctioned exhibition game on the content of Africa. The game features a team of African NBA players including Luol Deng, Serge Ibaka and Bismack Biyombo against “Team World,” which features the likes of Chris Paul, Bradley Beal, Marcus Smart and the Gasol brothers.

Fans in South Africa got an extra surprise during the game on Saturday: two of the most legendary African players in NBA history, and two of the most important ambassadors for the sport in Africa, suited up along with the current players. Hall of Famer Hakeem Olajuwon and second all-time leading shot-blocker Dikembe Mutombo checked into the game in throwback Rockets and Nuggets jerseys, respectively:

Olajuwon scored on the Magic’s Nikola Vucevic using his patented “Dream Shake”:

And Mutombo got a stop against the Jazz’ Trey Burke:

NBA commissioner Adam Silver said this week that it’s only a matter of time until the NBA plays a regular-season game in Africa. This exhibition game is just the first step in that direction. But it was cool to see two legends in action alongside current players helping to grow the sport all over the world.

Report: Serge Ibaka not yet cleared to play after March surgery

"Son Of The Congo" - 2015 SXSW Music, Film + Interactive Festival

Serge Ibaka had knee surgery in mid-March and was expected to be sidelined four to six weeks.

Nineteen weeks later, the Thunder power forward – who was named to Team Africa for the NBA’s first exhibition game on the continent – reportedly still isn’t ready to play.

Marc J. Spears of Yahoo Sports:

That’s a little concerning, though it shouldn’t cause panic for a couple reasons:

1. There’s still plenty of time before training camp opens.

2. Ibaka’s originally scheduled return was right around playoff time. There should be a higher standard of clearance for an exhibition game than a postseason game. It’s unclear whether Ibaka could play if this contest had higher stakes.

Still, it’s obviously not great news that Ibaka isn’t cleared.

The Thunder have been sidetracked in recent years by injuries to Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook. Ibaka isn’t at their level, but his defense and floor spacing means a lot to Oklahoma City. Ibaka is just a tick below All-Star level.

If everyone is healthy, the Thunder should contend for a championship. Once again, though, the status of at least one of their top players is in doubt.

At least, this time, it’s in the summer rather than spring.

Matt Barnes on Serge Ibaka: “He’s just dirty.”

Serge Ibaka, Jeff Green

Matt Barnes may not be with the Clippers anymore, but he hasn’t forgotten his old team’s battles with the Thunder — and some of the questionable plays made by Thunder forward Serge Ibaka. In a radio appearance in his new home of Memphis, Barnes didn’t mince words, outright accusing Ibaka of being a dirty player.

Putting aside the question of whether Matt Barnes has any room to call another player dirty, he has a point about Ibaka’s history with Griffin. Here’s the groin shot from a regular-season game in 2013:

And here’s the one from Game 4 of the Clippers-Thunder second-round series in 2014:

The first time the Thunder play Barnes’ Grizzlies next season is going to be fun.

Lakers’ coach Byron Scott says Kobe Bryant will “probably” play some power forward

Kobe Bryant, Byron Scott

We knew that with a guard rotation of Jordan Clarkson, D’Angelo Russell and Lou Williams, the Lakers were going to slide Kobe Bryant over to the three for stretches this season. And when Lakers’ trainer Gary Vitti discussed it with him, Kobe’s reaction was “I can do that.” Which is probably Kobe’s reaction to every question he is ever asked — “Hey Kobe, could you land a 747?” — but in this case he certainly can do it if healthy.

But how about Kobe at as a small four?

Not sure how Kobe feels about it, but Lakers’ coach Byron Scott is thinking about it, he told David Aldridge of NBA.com (hat tip to NBA Reddit).

“The one thing that we wanted to do and accomplish through this draft and through free agency was to try and be a little more versatile, have some versatility. So I think (Clarkson, Russell, Williams) can definitely do that. Kobe can play one, two and three. There’s no doubt in my mind. And there’s some games. against some teams, where he’ll probably play four. With his tenaciousness, the way he guards people and when his mind is set, if I say ‘Kobe, you’ve got him,’ he takes that as a challenge. You know how he is. He’ll compete.”

This is a decent idea, one worth exploring, if it is situational (the Lakers tried it very, very briefly last season).

If the Lakers are playing the Toronto Raptors and they’ve gone small with DeMarre Carroll at the four, the Lakers can match that with Kobe. Same with the Wizards if they go small and slide Jared Dudley to the four. Orlando if they go small with Tobias Harris at the four. There are matchups where this could work for the Lakers — not for long stretches, playing against bigger guys would take a toll on Kobe’s body, but for 5-10 minutes it could work.

However, notice all the teams noted above are in the East. The problem is that in the West most of the teams have fours Kobe would simply not be able to match defensively — Anthony Davis, Blake Griffin, Serge Ibaka (or the Thunder go small with Kevin Durant), LaMarcus Aldridge, Zach Randolph, Dirk Nowitzki, Draymond Green, and the list goes on. The West is simply a different animal with the forward spots.

That’s why most of the Lakers’ minutes at the four will be split between Julius Randle and Brandon Bass. Still, I could see a short stretch with three shooters to space the floor, Kobe at the four and Bass at the five. It’s worth taking a look at in preseason and early in the season. Scott is right, versatility matters more and more in the NBA. We’ll see if he puts that plan into action.

Ten Thunder players worked out together for a week in Los Angeles

Oklahoma City Thunder v Orlando Magic

The Oklahoma City Thunder seem to be the forgotten contender out West. They’ve got Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook and Serge Ibaka healthy, a strong set of role players, they should be in the mix. There are questions — can Billy Donovan elevate this team as the coach? — but they should not be left off the list.

In a good sign, Durant and Westbrook got 10 of the guys together in Los Angeles for a week of workouts. From Barry Trammel of the Oklahoman (hat tip Eye on Basketball).

“It was really cool,” said the president of the fraternity, fellow by the name of Kevin Durant. “It was fun, good to see everybody. Haven’t seen all the guys since the end of the season.”

Durant chatted on the phone for a few minutes Thursday about the off-season workouts he and his pals put together this week. Ten Thunder players are working out together in an old gym on the UCLA campus. Working on their games. Connecting and reconnecting with teammates and coaches, new and old….

“Feels like we’re coming in at the same time,” Durant said. “We always want that tight-knit family atmosphere. We’ve had that (in the past). It can always get better. This week was a step in the right direction for us. We all enjoy being around each other. That was the best part of it.”


NBA players, sometimes teammates, getting together in a small group (maybe three) is not uncommon. Especially at UCLA, which has one of the best off-season runs going. However getting 10 teammates together, working out and bonding in July, is very rare.

It’s a good sign in you’re a Thunder fan.

The Thunder need to stay healthy after a season where they got more than their fair share of injuries. They need Donovan to bring a modern offense to the table. They need their defense to be elite. They need the Enes Kanter/Steven Adams center rotation to work. They need some breaks to go their way in a West stacked with contenders (the Warriors, Spurs, Clippers, and Rockets are in the mix, too).

But 10 guys getting together in July? That’s a very good place to start.