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Spurs can't help but admire Serge Ibaka
OKLAHOMA CITY Gregg Popovich wasn't in the mood to dole out compliments Monday morning.
At least not when it 4-chlorodehydromethyltestosterone came to his own players.
It was a different story when it came to Oklahoma City Thunder forward Serge Ibaka, which was only fitting because. Ibaka's story is as different as they come.
"I think he's a special player and a special person," Popovich said of the Congolese big man whose surprise return from a calf injury Sunday changed everything in the Western Conference finals that the Spurs now lead 2 1. "The way he handles himself, the class that he exudes, I think he's the best defensive player in the league.
"I think he's been overlooked to some degree in that (defensive) regard. But he also does what he does at the offensive end. I think he's one of the most gifted players in our league because he's a dual player. He does it at both ends of the court. But he's also a fine man, so that's a pretty great combination."
This wasn't just any opposing coach who was heaping praise upon his opponent. This was the Air Force Academy born and bred Popovich, the man who spent the past two decades cornering the market on international talent and who is always quick to explain the merits of having a worldly existence. It's not always a politically correct conversation to have, if only because you can run the risk of insulting the hundreds of American players in the league who all had a path and varying levels of struggle of their own.
But Popovich whose Spurs set an NBA record with 10 international players on their opening night roster has never hidden the fact that he has a soft spot for the young men who weren't a product of the AAU machine. There's no sense of entitlement with players who weren't coddled from their early years, no me first mentality to get in the way of team success or douse the inner fire that Popovich sees as vital. Ibaka, who made such a dramatic impact in Game 3 and will start again in Tuesday's Game 4, is a Popovich kind of player if ever there was one.
By the time Ibaka was 8 years old, his mother had died of natural causes and he was forced from his hometown of Brazzaville because of the Second Congo War that would eventually claim more than 5 million lives. A few years later, Ibaka who lived with 10 of his siblings growing up and has 17 in all was without his father for more than a year when he was imprisoned for political reasons. He lived with his grandmother, as his bio reads, in a house that had no electricity or running water.
Basketball became his respite along the way. And after seasoning his game for several years playing professionally in Spain, the wildly athletic, tough and talented two way player who was drafted by the Thunder 24th overall in 2008 finally entered the NBA in 2009. Three seasons later, Ibaka signed a four year, $48 million extension that unofficially sealed his status as the Thunder's third star behind Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook.
Everything that Popovich has always emphasized about international players was on display Sunday, when Ibaka ignored all the pain and concern that comes with his injury and limped his way to the series changing finish line. Say what you will about the Thunder and whether their initial diagnosis that he was done for the playoffs was an act of gamesmanship, but Ibaka clearly accelerated his own timetable here in the most admirable, and effective, of ways.
It was 10 days from his injury to his return, with help from his two favorite nurses girlfriend and pop singer Keri Hilson and sister Rachina Ibaka. They worked on his body and soul in Oklahoma City during those two games that the Thunder dropped to open the series in San Antonio. They cooked for him, prayed with him and finding any way possible to put a smile back on his face.
A Buy Cheap Jintropin Online day after the group that together pulled it off, Ibaka's reasoning for doing so spoke volumes about the sort of perspective that Popovich is always preaching.
"Well, first of all, when we sign here in the NBA, we sign on everything, man," said Ibaka, who grew up with Christian parents and is deeply religious himself. "At the end Anadrol 100mg Results of "Anaboliset Aineet" the day, no matter what happened last night after the game or get hurt badly, I signed for this. I signed for this. The military, when they go out there to fight, when they sign, they sign for everything. No matter what happened last night, I signed for this. That's what I get paid for."
If ever there was a player that embodied Popovich's philosophy on this front, it's Manu Ginobili. And despite the fact that Ibaka is the enemy at the moment, even the Argentine player who is still going strong at 36 years old was, much like his coach, willing to share his admiration.
"It's incredible," Ginobili said of Ibaka. "When you hear stories like that, you understand what adversity is. Adversity is not being (down in the West finals) 0 2. (Ibaka's background) is adversity. So yeah, you appreciate a player more, and he appreciates what he has even more too.
"So it's a combination of things. He's not one of the kids that at 18 knew he was going to be a superstar, going to be a millionaire and take care of his family and stuff. So those stories are always interesting to understand or to listen to. Anavar For Weight Loss It's incredible."
Popovich was right that Ibaka was overlooked by the basketball loving masses 4-chlorodehydromethyltestosterone before, but that is changing quickly by the day. Ibaka admitted that the attention coming his way has surprised him, and he makes a point to avoid paying attention to all the hype that surrounds him.
"I don't watch ESPN, CNN, nothing, because one day they're going to talk about you, the next day they're going to forget everything about you," Ibaka said. "One day, they're going to talk about you and everybody is going to know about you. But some buy cheap jintropin online people, they can take you down, too. Like I said, I owe it to God, I always trust God, and I keep doing what I do best. I control what I can control and everything else comes naturally."
He's controlling more than the Spurs would prefer in this series, namely the paint that they owned in the first two games before his return. No one is overlooking him any more.
"I don't know how you can (overlook him) when he can do what he did (in Game 3) and win playoff games purely on him alone," said Spurs point guard Patty Mills, who is Australian. "Protecting the basket and knocking down jump shots and just having his Deca Durabolin For Endurance Athletes presence on the court is something that I think most teams and players feel. They know they can't get into the paint as easiiy as they can on other teams. So just him being out on the floor is a big difference. . He's obviously such a huge powerhouse now."