The Norman Transcript

May 25, 2014

Ibaka willing to play through pain, but status still uncertain

Thunder still looking for key to stopping Spurs

Michael Kinney
The Norman Transcript

NORMAN — Serge Ibaka walked with a limp toward the large group of media waiting to hear from him Saturday. It was the first time the Oklahoma City forward had spoken publicly since he strained his calf May 15.

There were many questions that had to be answered about how Ibaka’s injury was healing and the process that led him to be listed as day-to-day. Yet, when his time was up, listeners were still no closer to finding out if he would be playing in Game 3 of the Western Conference Finals tonight against the San Antonio Spurs at the Chesapeake Energy Arena.

“Right now I’m waiting for the team doctor to confirm, and also it’s depending on whether I will go (today), day by day, and see,” Ibaka said. “I cannot say how I feel. I’m waiting on what the doctor’s going to tell me and how my body’s going to feel. So, day by day, let’s see how I’m going to wake up (today).”

Due to NBA rules that state an injured player has to speak to the media within two weeks of being injured, he was scheduled to meet with the media regardless. So Saturday’s press conference was not the clue amateur sleuths are using to determine his availability for the game.

But Ibaka let it be known he wants to play, despite the pain he will be in.

“It’s 100 percent going to hurt,” Ibaka said. “For sure if the doctor gives me the OK and I feel better (today), I will be 100 percent with the pain, for sure. But like I said, I’m going to do whatever it takes to help my team.”

If the Thunder know if Ibaka will play, officials and players aren’t saying. That includes league MVP Kevin Durant.

“I don’t know what his status is,” Durant said. “I’ve heard some stuff, but I don’t know. But we’re preparing like he’s not playing because that’s what he said before we started the series. We’ve all got to dig deep ourselves and figure out what we have to do, and I think guys have done a great job the last few days.”

What has become apparent is that nobody seemed to really believe Ibaka would miss the entire series. At first it was just the Spurs who let it be known they believed the 6-10 athletic power forward would be on the court at some time. Now, even some of the Thunder are talking as if they also paid no attention to the initial reports.

“First of all, we never have convinced ourselves that Serge was out in the first place,” Oklahoma City’s Russell Westbrook said. “ We just come out and play our game and play Thunder basketball. The day-to-day news is just news for the media. Serge is going to take his time and get back when he’s ready.”

Ibaka, who hasn’t practiced with the team or done any running, said he had faith he would be back this year.

“When the gym doctor told me I’m going to be out for the rest of the playoffs, I wasn’t believing it because I believe in God,” Ibaka said. “I know I’m here for a reason, and so I want to just keep pushing, keep putting ice, do what I can do, what I can control.”

Regardless if Ibaka plays or not, the Thunder’s biggest worry is how to slow down a Spurs’ offense that has run wild in the first two games. With the series moving to Oklahoma, they hope it will also bring back the defense that has carried them this season.

“Just getting back to how we play as a unit and our brand of basketball,” Westbrook said. “We’re going to go back to playing Thunder basketball.”

Down 0-2 to the team with the best record in the league is not a position the Thunder wanted to be in. But now that they are, they believe they have the resilience to do something special.

“Just embracing those moments and knowing that tough times build your character, and I think this is another step for us, another obstacle for us, and we’re going to see what we do, how we handle it,” Durant said. “That’s what being a man is all about, and that’s what a team is all about is going through tough times. It’s kind of easy to stay together when you’re sweeping a series, but to hit some adversity like we’ve done in this playoffs shows the type of team we are.

“We’ve always been a bounce-back type of team, so we’ve got to make sure we not just talk about it but go out there and do it.”

Michael Kinney

Follow me @eyeamtruth


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