Serge Ibaka signs four-year extension; Thunder now focused on Harden
BY BILL HAISTEN World Sports Writer
Sunday, August 19, 2012
8/19/12 at 6:05 AM
The signing of Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook to new contracts was executed in a quiet, off-the-radar manner, and so was Oklahoma City's signing of power forward Serge Ibaka to a four-year extension.
Ibaka's deal reportedly is worth $48 million, but the Thunder did not disclose contract details on Saturday.
"You had two motivated parties," Thunder general manager Sam Presti said during a teleconference. "(Ibaka) was very intent on being with this group of guys and building on the contribution that he has established."
A three-year NBA veteran who turns 23 next month, Ibaka started in all 66 of Oklahoma City's 2011-12 regular-season games. At 6-foot-10 and 235 pounds, he averaged 9.1 points (on 54 percent shooting). A member of the NBA All-Defensive Team, Ibaka led the NBA in blocked shots at 3.65 per game. The next-best average was the 2.16 posted by Denver's Javale McGee.
Ibaka was not available for comment. Along with Thunder teammates Cole Aldrich and Hasheem Thabeet, he currently is conducting basketball camps in the Republic of the Congo and South Africa. After the teleconference concluded, Presti segued to another significant matter - his Saturday night wedding.
Ibaka would have become a restricted free agent following the 2012-13 season and an unrestricted free agent a year later. From a contract standpoint, OKC guard James Harden - the NBA's Sixth Man of the Year - is in the same position.
When asked whether a negotiation with Harden already has begun, Presti said, "Every (negotiation) has its own tempo and has its own rhythm. ... We're going to continue our conversations with James. We very much value him. We're excited that he's a member of the Thunder and hope he's with us for years moving forward."
The NBA's 2013-14 salary cap could be at about the $65 million mark, and for that season the Thunder already has a combined total of approximately $54 million committed to Durant, Westbrook, Ibaka and center Kendrick Perkins. Harden is expected to command a dollar figure that exceeds the $48 million given to Ibaka. With OKC being a small-market team, the NBA's luxury tax becomes a heavy consideration. For every dollar that a team spends on player compensation beyond the salary cap, that team must pay a dollar in luxury tax.
"There are a lot of (challenges) that our organization faces as a result of the new CBA (the NBA's collective bargaining agreement)," Presti said.
While Ibaka's overall offensive numbers have been fairly modest, his jump-shot range extends to 17 feet and he has shown signs of developing more of a scoring game. In Game 1 of this year's first-round playoff series against Dallas, he scored 22 points on 9-of-12 shooting. In Game 4 of the Western Conference finals, Ibaka scalded San Antonio with a career-high total of 26 points on 11-of-11 shooting.
"We think he will continue to evolve,' Presti said. "We will expect more production over a period of time. He balances our team even more. Defensively, he alters the game for us. He protects the rim in a fashion that is unique. He makes us a better team not only on the defensive end, but also in transition with his ability run the perimeter players - and in some cases outrun the perimeter players.
"We think his best basketball is ahead of him. We're excited that it's going to take place in Oklahoma City."
Original Print Headline: Thunder, Ibaka agree to contract extension
Bill Haisten 918-581-8397
Oklahoma City's Serge Ibaka drives against Miami's Chris Bosh during the NBA Finals on June 12. The Thunder signed Ibaka to a four-year contract extension Saturday. CORY YOUNG/Tulsa World