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Serge Ibaka doesn’t practice with Thunder Saturday; Kevin Durant says ‘we’re preparing like he’s not playing’

May 24, 2014, 8:00 PM EDT

Serge Ibaka Serge Ibaka

It was interesting (if not surprising) news that Serge Ibaka, who was initially ruled out of the Western Conference Finals with a calf injury, had his status upgraded to day-to-day on Friday.

But while most of us (the entire Spurs organization included) expect him to play in Sunday’s Game 3, the signs aren’t pointing to that just yet. Ibaka participated in some light workouts out on Saturday, but didn’t practice with the team.

“Just with our coaches,” Thunder head coach Scott Brooks told reporters. “It’s all part of the process with him recovering … He didn’t practice with us, he just worked out just with our coaches.”

Kevin Durant similarly isn’t making any guarantees as far as Ibaka being healthy enough to help his team on Sunday.

“I don’t know what his status is,” Durant said. “I’ve heard some stuff, but I don’t know. But we’re preparing like he’s not playing because that’s what he said before we started the series. We’ve all got to dig deep ourselves and figure out what we have to do, and I think guys have done a great job the last few days.”

Some of this could of course involve a certain amount of gamesmanship, because it’s not like the Thunder need Ibaka to practice with them in order for the rest of the team to feel comfortable with his presence. Ibaka started 81 games for Oklahoma City during the regular season, and averaged 32.9 minutes per contest.

Ibaka’s presence would help the Thunder’s interior defense while giving them an additional option on the offensive floor at the same time, but only if he’s healthy enough to truly make a difference.

Despite the way OKC struggled in the two games that Ibaka was sidelined, he doesn’t believe his absence was the reason for those losses — which perhaps is something he felt the need to convey in case he’s forced out of action once again on Sunday.

“I’ve been hearing a lot of people saying my team lost two games because I was out,” Ibaka said. “It’s not true. It’s not true. I believe in my guys. I believe in my teammates, that they can do better, with me or without me. It’s not an excuse because Serge Ibaka was not there.  t’s just that San Antonio the first two games, they played better basketball. We need to give them a lot of credit. Right now our focus, my teammates and I, is about tomorrow’s game, and I’m sure with me or without me they’re going to do a better job.”

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