NBA AM: Ibaka Makes All-Star Claim
Throughout the course of every NBA season there’s a list of players who make the leap and take their respective games to the next level.
Some are forced to leave their co-star roles in the rearview mirror and put franchises on their back like Portland’s LaMarcus Aldridge was challenged to do after Brandon Roy’s injury woes.
While others such as Oklahoma City’s Serge Ibaka make the jump from serviceable role players to legitimate starting caliber options.
Ibaka started 44 games this past season for the Thunder and his emergence was one of the primary reasons the franchise took a moderate risk in dealing talented forward Jeff Green to Boston in exchange for rugged center Kendrick Perkins.
But for Ibaka resting on the laurels of last season’s success isn’t an option. He feels his talent has a much higher ceiling than just hearing his name called in the starting lineup nightly.
“Yes, I see it happening in one or two years,” Ibaka told Jorge Sierra of HoopsHype.com in an exclusive interview on whether he believed he had All-Star potential.
The confidence displayed by the 21 year old power forward, who has only two seasons under his belt, may be alarming to some but Ibaka was an integral force in the Thunder’s late season run improving his scoring and rebounding averages across the board after assumed the full-time starter role.
Despite the confidence, Ibaka clearly understands his true role within the team is to support OKC’s dynamic young All-Star duo of Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook. If he’s successful in maximizing his productivity in that role Ibaka knows future accolades will eventually arrive at his doorstep.
“Well… I feel very good about my current role,” Ibaka said. “They [Durant and Westbrook] will both help me improve my offensive game. On the defensive end, the role I have is very important for me. If one day I become an All-Star, it will not be only because of my offensive game. My job on the defensive end will count too.”
For now Ibaka is gearing up to help his adopted Spain defend its European Championship.
Ibaka, who played for various Spanish clubs, became a Spanish national earlier this month.
“I am excited to play with point guards Ricky (Rubio), (Jose) Calderon and (Barcelona’s Victor) Sada because they make other players better, and also share the paint with Pau [Gasol], Marc [Gasol] and (Madrid forward) Felipe (Reyes),” Ibaka told the Associated Press.
Current Los Angeles Lakers starting power forward and two-time NBA champion Pau Gasol sees the talent Ibaka possess.
“Physically, (Ibaka) is a very good player, very powerful,” Gasol said. “He gives us another inside player to increase the level of competition on the team.”
The two finalists of the European Championships will automatically qualify for the 2012 London Olympics.
Patrick Mills To The NBL? Patty Mills, who played in 64 games for the Portland Trail Blazers last season, has been staying busy despite the ongoing lockout.
”Being a free agent I haven’t actually signed with a team for next season, but I will definitely play for the Boomers in September,” Mills told The Age.
The 22-year-old guard plans to lace them up for his native Australia as its national team prepares for the Oceania Olympic Qualifiers in Melbourne, Brisbane and Sydney from September 7-9. Milwaukee Bucks starting center Andrew Bogut will not be participating due to being unable to find insurance protection in the event of injury.
Staying active in the present is one thing, but Mills’ future plans are still up in the air and the former Saint Mary’s product hasn’t ruled out any potential possibilities – even the NBL.
”The most important thing for me is to find somewhere to play,” Mills stated. “Right now there is no rush in making a decision – it will come over the next couple of months. Portland have offered me a qualifying contract which is the same position I have been in the last couple of years.”
This has prompted Basketball Australia’s chief executive Larry Sengstock to offer his help in facilitating a potential move to the NBL.
“Based on Patty’s comments there could be a great opportunity for us to lure one of our marquee stars to the NBL,” Sengstock told ABC Australia.
Sengstock also added that he hoped Mills would consider the NBL “at least until the NBA lockout is lifted”.
Aaron Brooks Reiterates Interest In Phoenix: As Aaron Brooks told HOOPSWORLD earlier this summer, he has a strong interest in returning to Phoenix even it means serving in a limited bench role behind two-time MVP guard Steve Nash.
“How’s Phoenix? I love Phoenix,” Brooks recently told the Arizona Republic. “I think they like me, too. They picked up my qualifying offer, didn’t they?”
A qualifying offer isn’t the end-all-be-all in terms of getting a vote of confidence from a franchise, but in the purest form it shows the club at least wants the option to match any team’s contract offer for a player’s services.
Brooks admits openly he struggled at times adjusting to a new system and style of play in midseason but still feels the situation is a great career fit.
“It was hard joining a team mid-season like that,” Brooks said. “It’s a different situation when you’re in camp together, working together. It didn’t go the way I wanted it to. Despite how things went, I think Phoenix is a good place for me. The players, management, fans; everything about the team I liked. That’s not something you always find.”
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