Mark Heisler of the LA Times with a great story on Serge Ibaka: “At 17, Congolese-born Serge Ibaka had yet to play organized basketball. At 20, he’s in rotation for the Thunder, a 6-10 version of Russell Westbrook, and one more way the Lakers just learned they’re not young anymore. Ibaka is the embodiment of the rising Thunder, not yet a starter but no longer a rumor, bounding his way out of anonymity in this, his first NBA season, following his two in Spain, which were, as he puts it, “my first time to play basketball, organizational.”
A story from the Houston Chronicle on the Thunder’s impact in OKC: Although the Thunder have not won over a community by bringing it a championship, they feel a sense of civic pride, even responsibility, because of the way the team was embraced as Oklahoma City’s first top-level pro franchise. From the Thunder Alley gathering outside the arena before games to shirts all over a University of Oklahoma campus usually adorned only in crimson 30 minutes away, Oklahoma City is the latest in a line of small-market, one-major-league-sport towns that have become an NBA specialty.
Shoals breaks down the rookie class: “Harm Reduction Rookie of the Year. Blake Griffin would have been perfect here. But when OKC drew number three, Presti had to put on his thinking cap — a golden device that so many young men would give their souls to glimpse but once. Russell Westbrook is their point guard of the future, so no need for clutter there. Even snagging Rubio as a defensive move would prove too much of a distraction. Trading the pick wouldn’t get them the big man they wanted, at least not without sacrificing cap room. Enter Harden, the ultimate low-risk, medium-reward pick, the equivalent of skipping a turn late in a game of Monopoly to collect rent money from others. Is that even legal?”
Simmons gave out some playoff power rankings and Serge Ibaka came in 31st. Oh, and Simmons also tries to take credit for the “Chewie” nickname. What gives?: “Let’s say Sam Presti resigned, OKC hired me to run the team, David Stern announced that the league was adding 10 more teams, and there was a mega-expansion draft coming in June in which I could protect only three of my players. (I know, this isn’t the most likely scenario. Just bear with me.) I would protect Durant, Westbrook … and Serge Ibaka. It’s true. (Random note: I’m not sure someone named “Serge Ibaka” needs a nickname. That’s a strong name. He sounds like the villain in a James Bond flick — as in, the world is going to blow up unless 007 can stop Serge Ibaka. But every time an announcer screams Ibaka’s name — and it’s happened a few times in this Lakers series — it always sounds a little like “Chewbacca.” Which makes me wonder if we could get away with calling him “Chewie.”
I care about these types of things, so you can assume I enjoyed this from Henry Abbott on Steve Nash’s hair.
The Lakers want to impose their will on the Thunder: “As the Lakers prepared to fly to Oklahoma City on Thursday, the team talked about the energy it hoped to take with it as carry-on to combat a raucous home crowd at the Ford Center in Friday’s Game 6. “It’s really about who imposes whose will upon the game,” said Lakers coach Phil Jackson. “You really have to impose your will upon the game. That’s something we did in Game 3, but we couldn’t sustain it.” Los Angeles has won the first quarter in four of the five games of the series, setting the tone from the beginning. In the first quarters of L.A.’s three wins, it outscored Oklahoma City by a combined 84-51. In Game 3, the first playoff game in the history of Oklahoma, the Lakers used a 10-0 run to start the game to diffuse the home crowd.”
Berry Tramel says the Thunder shouldn’t do a thing different: “But here’s what the Thunder should do differently to take down the Lakers, either tonight or in some season to come. Nothing. Absolutely nothing. The Thunder shouldn’t change a thing. Don’t tinker with the lineup tonight, which Scott Brooks says he won’t do. Don’t overhaul the roster after this magic carpet ride ends, which Sam Presti repeatedly has said he won’t do.”