The return of Serge Ibaka changed the Western Conference Finals in Game 3 — Oklahoma City could spread the floor more on offense (creating room for Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook to operate), and on defense Ibaka blocked four shots and had the Spurs altering shots and missing (San Antonio shot just 50 percent in the restricted area).
However, Ibaka was limping at points during the end of Game 3. Then he did not practice with the Thunder on Monday.
Doesn’t matter, he is going to play in Game 4 he said, as reported by ESPN.
“The good news is I’m not feeling worse, so that’s good,” Ibaka said. “I’m sure every day I’m going to feel better every day, but I’m not expecting to feel much better yet tomorrow. One thing I know, I expect to do a better job….
“It was kind of hard a little bit with my feet. I was using more my right foot than left foot,” Ibaka said. “I could not do too much last night because after we saw the video, I felt like I was slow, and I’m sure my legs, my coaches, they understand, and I’m going to try to do tomorrow I’m going to try to do better than last game.”
With Ibaka and Reggie Jackson in the starting lineup the Thunder found their offense and played with a better defensive energy, the rotations that had been slow to nonexistent in the first two games were sharp in Game 3.
This felt a lot like Game 3 of the 2012 Western Conference Finals, when the Spurs won the first two games and the Thunder swept the next four.
The real question now is how the Spurs respond — they became sloppy in the face of the pressure, with Tony Parker in particular struggling (especially when Westbrook was guarding him). If the Spurs find their form again, Game 4 is going to be very interesting.
Terry Rozier takes solace in how much Danny Ainge believes in him.
But I didn’t appreciate how deep their bond went.
Appearing on Bleacher Report’s live draft show, Rozier was asked to predict the Celtics’ No. 27 pick. So, Rozier called Ainge to ask. Shockingly, Ainge answered – with Boston on the clock. Almost certainly not knowing the call was public and live, Ainge revealed the likely selection:
Good thing the Celtics stuck with Robert Williams. That would have been extremely awkward otherwise.
As is, it was only a little awkward. Williams said today he doesn’t like to be called Bob.
Paul George has openly stated the appeal of playing for his hometown Lakers. He has also openly stated the appeal of staying with the Thunder.
That has created significant confusion about his upcoming free agency.
Could George find a compromise outcome?
Marc Stein of The New York Times in his newsletter:
More than one rival team has suggested to me that they expect George to strongly consider a two-year deal with the Thunder at $30.3 million next season and $32.7 million in 2019-20 that includes a player option to return to free agency next summer.
This makes sense on paper.
A 1+1 contract would give George more time to determine whether he and Russell Westbrook can win together in Oklahoma City without getting stuck there long-term if they can’t. The Thunder were starting to put it together when Andre Roberson got hurt. Perhaps, Roberson getting healthy would swing Oklahoma City’s fortunes.
George would also be eligible for a higher max salary in two years – 35% of the salary cap, up from 30% if he signs now. So, a short-term contract would allow him to maximize his potential earnings.
But George said he wanted to sign somewhere long-term this summer. He also suffered an extremely gruesome leg injury just a few years ago. He might not want to bypass guaranteed money to gamble for a little more later.
Are these rival teams just looking at the general outlook for a player in George’s position without considering his specific circumstances? Or do they know something? George could have informed teams he might become available in 2019 or 2020 so they should prepare.
I’m skeptical this is more than speculation by opposing teams. But the possibility that they’re basing their expectations on inside information makes this worth monitoring.
Mikal Bridges‘ mom jumped up, pumped her fists and screamed “Yes!” through her giant grin.
The 76ers – the organization she works for in human resources – had just drafted her son No. 10 overall. Bridges, a Philadelphia native who played at Villanova, seemed as if he’d stay home for his pro career.
She’s very, very excited. She’s been wanting this. She’s probably more excited than I am. She was about to cry and all that. She said she didn’t want to ruin her makeup, so she’d try to hold it in. But no, she’s very excited. I’m her only son. I’m a little mama’s boy. Her son is right there around the corner again, and it’s just really cool.
Except, as Bridges was talking, the 76ers were trading him to the Suns for No. 16 pick Zhaire Smith and the Heat’s unprotected 2021 first-rounder.
That extra pick carries major value. Even if you like Bridges much more than Smith – which I did, especially considering their fits in Philadelphia – that’s hard to pass up. The NBA is a business after all.
But it’s lamentable how this played out.
The Kings drafted Marvin Bagley No. 2 last night (seemingly for bad reasons, which doesn’t at all eliminate him from being the right pick but makes it less likely he is). He’ll join a young core also comprised of Bogdan Bogdanovic, De'Aaron Fox, Buddy Hield, Willie Cauley-Stein, Skal Labissiere, Justin Jackson and Harry Giles.
That group excite you?
Kings general manager Vlade Divac isn’t reducing expectations.
Lina Washington of ABC 10:
To be fair, in 2012, the Warriors were coming off a 23-43 season with Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson already on the roster and had just drafted Draymond Green and Harrison Barnes. Everyone would’ve laughed at calling Golden State a “super team, just young” then. But those four (plus Andre Iguodala) eventually led the Warriors to a championship.
But, really: Nah.
Entering the 2016-17 season, then-Knicks guard Derrick Rose said, “They’re saying us and Golden State are the super teams.” We mocked Rose relentlessly, and of course, the Warriors went 73-9 while New York finished just 32-50.
How long until Divac’s young super team reaches even 32-50?