Though the San Antonio Spurs said they don’t believe Serge Ibaka will miss the rest of the postseason, Thunder coach Scott Brooks remained steadfast.
“Contrary to what San Antonio was thinking, he’s not coming back,” Brooks said. “…He’s not coming through those doors.”
That’s unfortunate for Oklahoma City. To say the Thunder missed Ibaka in Game 1 would be an understatement. They were lost defensively without him, allowing the Spurs to just cruise into the paint for easy shots.
But maybe Oklahoma City has help on the way.
Ibaka is back in Oklahoma City for Games 1 and 2 – ruled out of the playoffs with a lower leg injury – but his willingness to play with pain, his loyalty to the championship cause, has him thinking about starting some stationary shooting late this week, a league source told Yahoo Sports on Monday.
For additional context, the headline of the article is “As Thunder miss Serge Ibaka in Game 1 loss to Spurs, shot-blocker still hopes to return.” I don’t know Wojnarowski’s role in headlining his articles, but that’s worded much more strongly than anything in the article itself.
I don’t doubt Ibaka’s attempts to return. He’s a competitor, and he didn’t reach the level he has without pushing himself. He can’t just turn that off.
However, there’s a huge difference between stationary shooting and defending a San Antonio pick-and-roll. If Ibaka plays, it might be mostly symbolic. Not to discount the value in that – there certainly could be some – but Oklahoma City needs an interior defender more than a symbol.
The Thunder could trail 2-0 before Ibaka even does that stationary shooting, anyway. If Ibaka is going to make an impact, it will be on his teammates – to extend the series long enough for him to return and then to rally around his presence rather than his production.