The BallinEurope reverse jinx works again … two days after BiE posted (via Tu Basket) that perhaps folks in Real Madrid land weren’t too happy with Serge Ibaka’s performance for Los Blancos, the no-longer locked out Oklahoma City Thunderer became the block machine again against Spirou Charleroi on Thursday with five swats added to 12 points in Real’s 93-89 win. (Video highlights run at bottom of this post.)
Yesterday, nearly directly immediately following the news that an accord had been reached between NBA franchise owners and the players’ union, Ibaka again did what he was brought to Madrid to do. Enrico Cellini takes a look at more awesomeness from Ibaka in Liga Endesa play and whether Saturday was his last game with Real.
The news of the end of the NBA nuclear winter arrived yesterday, a few hours before the game between Real Madrid and CAI Zaragoza. Aware that he would be losing Serge Ibaka soon, Real Madrid coach Pablo Laso must have thought he’d better get the most out of his NBA exile. After averaging just 12 minutes in four ACB games with los Blancos, Ibaka stayed on the court for 25 minutes and responded with a monster game: 15 points (7-of-8 from the field, including five dunks), nine boards, six blocks (five in the first half) and a performance index rating of 29. Led by the Congo native, Real Madrid cruised to an easy 84-67 win at the annihilated Zaragoza.
But stats can’t convey how much Ibaka dominated. His overwhelming athleticism under the boards discouraged any penetration and deterred any other shots from inside the paint. Simply all over the place.
It is not certain whether Saturday’s game was Ibaka’s swansong as a Madrid player: With the NBA season starting on Christmas, training camps are expected to start December 8 or 9 (at least according to what Danilo Gallinari’s father anticipated yesterday in the Italian-language Radio Sportiva), the returning Oklahoma City Thunder big man would theoretically be able to play a couple of more games in Europe.
Said Ibaka to Spanish television’s Teledeporte: “I wish I could stay a little longer to show what I can do.” But then added, “Everybody knew it was going to end this way, there is nothing I can do”.
Enrico Cellini is lifelong basketball fanatic and a long-time sportswriter with a focus on Italy and Spain. He was born among European hoops, was raised watching the NBA, and thinks choosing between American and European basketball is like choosing between one’s mother and father. You can follow him on Twitter or check out his Italian-language blog Hoop Addicted.