Serge Ibaka was initially ruled out for the Western Conference Finals against the Spurs, after suffering a pretty unlucky calf injury in the Thunder’s series-clinching win over the Clippers.
San Antonio wasn’t necessarily buying the diagnosis at the time, and as it turned out, their skepticism was justified.
The Thunder upgraded Ibaka’s status to day-to-day on Friday, and it now seems likely that we’ll see him on the court for Sunday’s Game 3 in Oklahoma City with essentially the season on the line.
Gregg Popovich reacted to the news exactly as you might expect.
Pop on Ibaka news: “Shocked. I’m so surprised. Like I told you from the beginning, I know Sammy. We knew he’d be back. And that’s good.”
— Dan McCarney (@danmccarneysaen) May 23, 2014
Ibaka rushing back ahead of schedule to try to be there for his teammates is understandable, but unless he’s very close to 100 percent, his presence won’t make that much of a difference.
The qualities that make Ibaka so important to what the Thunder do on both ends of the floor are his shot blocking in help situations, along with his consistent ability to knock down the mid-range jumper. Doing either of those with a lingering calf injury could prove to be too tall a task, but as Popovich sarcastically noted, the fact that Ibaka is likely to give it a shot doesn’t come as much of a surprise.