Monday, August 20, 2012
NBA : Ibaka gets extension from Thunder; more
Source : Yahoo Sports
The Thunder and general manager Sam Presti still face difficult decisions in the team's quest to remain a title threat for the long haul after reaching the NBA Finals last season, but reaching a contract extension with blocks leader Serge Ibaka is certainly a good start.
Ibaka came to terms on the deal on Saturday as the Thunder locked up another key member of their nucleus while also putting into question whether the small-market team can afford to keep Sixth Man of the Year James Harden beyond next season..
Ibaka posted on Twitter that he was happy for the chance to play for the Thunder for five more years. Presti didn't provide details of the contract, citing team policy, but Yahoo! Sports first reported that the deal is for four additional years and $48 million.
''At 23 years old (by the time next season starts), we really do expect his best basketball to be in front of him,'' Presti said in a conference call, hours before his wedding.
Presti dismissed the notion that Ibaka's signing means that Harden's departure is inevitable. But with more than $50 million committed per season to All-Stars Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook and starting center Kendrick Perkins, there is not much room left in the budget for Harden, who earned a spot on the U.S. Olympic team that won gold in London.
Ibaka played for Spain's silver-medal winning Olympic team. Both he and Harden were eligible for extensions to their rookie contracts for the first time this summer and were set to become free agents after next season.
''We're going to continue our conversations with James. We very much value him,'' Presti said. ''We want him to be a part of our organization moving forward. We're excited that he's a member of the Thunder and we're hopeful that he'll be with us for years moving forward.''
To make that happen, Oklahoma City would likely have to go over the salary cap - set at about $58 million for next season - and pay a luxury tax or make other moves, such as using the amnesty clause to erase Perkins' contract.
The Thunder have already let veteran free agents Nazr Mohammed and Royal Ivey sign elsewhere, and Derek Fisher remains unsigned. Backup point guard Eric Maynor, who missed most of last season due to a knee injury, also would become a free agent after next season.
''There's still a commitment for us to try to find a way to make it work for everybody, but we know there's going to be some difficult decisions that have to be made,'' Presti said. ''We're looking forward to trying to figure those things out, and having Serge in place is certainly a benefit for our organization moving forward knowing that we have another core player that will be with us for the foreseeable future.''
Ibaka was the No. 24 pick in the draft in 2008, the same year Presti selected Westbrook. A native of the Republic of Congo, Ibaka remained overseas for a year before joining the Thunder and developing into a defensive stopper.
He led the NBA with 198 blocks in the 2010-11 season and finished second in the voting for Defensive Player of the Year last season after recording a league-best 241 - a franchise record 3.65 per game.
''He's come a long way in a short amount of time, but I've seen a lot of hard work that's gone into that on his behalf, and that gives us confidence that he's going to continue to work at it,'' Presti said.
Ibaka has steadily improved his offensive game, adding a mid-range jumper while starting to develop effective post moves. But he's best known for his defensive impact, particularly after blocking at least 10 shots in three games last season - once as part of a triple-double.
''I think with Serge, he does so many things,'' Presti said. ''Obviously, his shot-blocking is a statistic that's most pointed to because it's objective, because it's measurable, but there's a lot of things he does for us in terms of just, I would say, deterring shots.
''He really helps our pick-and-roll defense and bails us out a lot of times.''
IGOUDALA, NUGGETS WANTS LONG TERM
The Nuggets acquired the All-Star swingman from Philadelphia in the blockbuster trade that sent Dwight Howard to the Los Angeles Lakers.
Iguodala is under contract for this season with a player option for 2013-14. At his introductory news conference at the Pepsi Center on Thursday, he said he told Nuggets general manager Masai Ujiri he wants to be here a while.
''We weren't coming into this thinking this will be a one-year deal,'' Iguodala said. ''... This is definitely a place that I can see myself for more than just a year or two.''
Ujiri said he'll work on an extension this upcoming season for the defensive-minded star who helped the U.S. win the gold medal at the London Olympics.
The Nuggets traded key contributors Al Harrington and Arron Afflalo to Orlando as part of the deal that involved four teams, 12 players and five draft picks.
Iguodala said he sought out Carmelo Anthony while in London to ask him about Denver and coach George Karl.
Don't worry, Nuggets fans, Melo didn't rip his old coach.
''He said I would be a perfect fit for Coach Karl. We two would really gel together,'' Iguodala recounted.
Iguodala knows Melo and Karl had their moments, both good and bad, together.
''It's the nature of basketball sometimes, every player and coach are going to have run-ins. George Karl made him a better player and Melo made him a better coach,'' Iguodala said. ''He had nothing but good things to say about Coach Karl. Seattle was my favorite team growing up so I know a little bit about Coach Karl and his history. He's one of the best coaches in the game, well-respected by much of his peers and much of his players.''
When Iguodala spoke with Karl by phone, the coach ''didn't sugarcoat anything,'' telling the All-Star he needed to get to the line more and knock down his free throws, Iguodala said.
''Iggy'' is Karl's kind of guy: versatile, tough. He plays lockdown defense and darts upcourt in transition with equal enthusiasm.
''You just run fast, it's pretty simple,'' Iguodala said. ''Especially with the two point guards we have in Ty (Lawson) and Andre Miller. The pass ahead is really what gets it going.''
Sixers coach Doug Collins had high praise for Iguodala this week.
''The thing I'm happy about for Dre is he went through a lot in this city, about living up to his contract. All I know is the last two years, he ends up as a world champion, a gold medalist, an All-Star, a second-team all-league defender,'' Collins said. ''And what a great thing it was for him to walk to the line against Chicago (in the playoffs) and make two free throws to put us into the next round. I'm so happy those great things happened for him. He made me a better coach and I hope along the way I helped him a little bit.''
Indeed, he did.
''My game has really picked up in the NBA,'' Iguodala said. ''My whole life I've felt like I can do anything on the basketball court, from playing point guard in high school to having to play center one year in high school, doing everything in college and going through different roles in Philadelphia. Coming in being a rookie, just a defensive stopper and having to be a scorer for three or four years in between there. I've got a lot of confidence that I'll be able to take the big shot or make the play that gets us the shot.''
The last A.I. the Nuggets brought in from Philly - Allen Iverson - played in 144 games for them, including playoffs.
They're counting on this union lasting much longer.
DON NELSON OFFICIALLY RETIRED FROM COACHING
Don Nelson, the NBA's all-time winningest coach, reportedly said Saturday night he is officially done with coaching.
Nelson, who will be inducted next month into the Pro Basketball Hall of Fame, told NBA.com that his coaching career is over after spanning 34 years.
As late as last season, Nelson flirted with returning to the bench when he was a candidate for the head-coaching job with the Minnesota Timberwolves. The job went to Rick Adelman.
Nelson, 72, has coached for 30 seasons during 1976-2010 for teams, finishing his career with a second stint with the Golden State Warriors. He ended with 1,300 and was one of two coaches to be named NBA Coach of the Year three times (1982, '85 and '92).
His most famous coaching moment may have been in 2007 when he led the Warriors to a first-round upset of the top-seeded Dallas Mavericks -- a team he had coached two years earlier.
His coaching career also included directing the U.S. to a gold medal in the 1994 World Championships.
As a player, he won five NBA titles with the Boston Celtics, with whom he played 11 of his 15 seasons.