Thunder Excited to Re-Sign Ibaka
Since the Thunder arrived in Oklahoma City, its players have set the standards for performance.
On Saturday, General Manager Sam Presti announced that one of its core players who helped define the work ethic the Thunder operates under on a daily basis, Serge Ibaka, will remain with the team for the foreseeable future thanks to a contract extension. The fourth-year forward who is originally from the Republic of Congo and the Thunder agreed to terms on Saturday, helping solidify the team’s core for the next few years.
“We were very fortunate that Serge really demonstrated a lot of passion for being a part of the organization and being in the Oklahoma City community,” Presti said via conference call.
Ibaka was drafted by the Thunder with the 24th pick in the 2008 NBA Draft and he has become an integral part of a young nucleus the Thunder has assembled over the past five seasons. Along with Russell Westbrook and Kevin Durant, Ibaka has committed to the organization that has helped him develop from a rookie who averaged 6.3 points and 5.4 rebounds to a First-Team All-Defensive team selection in 2011-12, when he started all 66 games and averaged a league-leading 3.65 blocks per game. It was clear, according to Presti, that this was a good decision for both sides.
“In this case, I think you had two motivated parties,” Presti said. “He was very intent on staying with this group of guys, building on the foundation that we have established.”
Ibaka spent this time this summer playing for Team Spain in the London Olympics, continuing his persistence in finding ways to improve his game. While shooting 53.5 percent this season and becoming a consistent jump shooter are important aspects of Ibaka’s game that he will continue to improve upon, his staple is how he plays on the defensive end. As Presti highlighted, not only does Ibaka’s shot-blocking impact a game, but the intangible ways in which he puts pressure on opposing offenses changes the game for the Thunder.
“With Serge, he does so many things,” Presti said. “Obviously his shot-blocking is the statistic that most point to because it’s subjective and it’s measurable. But there are a lot of things that he does for us in terms of deterring shots. He really helps on pick-and-roll defense and bails us out a lot.”
Most of all, the Thunder and Ibaka’s teammates have been impressed with his dedication and insistence on developing as a player. The Thunder has a detailed and rigorous development program for each and every player, so the fact that Ibaka signed a multi-year contract extension allows the Thunder staff to continue its work with the highly skilled forward. Proven by the steps he’s been able to make so far, the Thunder is confident that Ibaka will continue to progress into a better, more well-rounded player.
“You don’t get to this point to be an NBA player coming from where he comes from without real fiber and some real DNA,” Presti said. “Those are the types of things that we really value internally here. I think he possesses that in a pretty high quantity.”
As a person and a member of the Oklahoma City community, Ibaka has also made his mark. Presti and his staff see the type of presence he holds with his teammates, Thunder staff and Oklahomans out at schools or other events and know he is committed to being a part of something bigger than himself. In addition, Ibaka’s youth, athleticism and work ethic are all signs to Presti and the Thunder that he will continue to improve as a player while doing all that he can to help the Thunder be successful on and off the court.
“We think he’s important but we also think his best basketball is ahead of him and we’re excited that he’ll continue to play in Oklahoma City,” Presti said.