If there was a Thunder fan that did not love Serge Ibaka they were in a vast minority because he was such a big part of Oklahoma City's success story. Drafted with the 24th pick in 2008, Serge was stashed in Europe for a season before making his Thunder debut a year later and it was obvious from day one that he was an elite athletic specimen and soon won not only the starting power forward position but most fans' hearts as well.
However, that is not what this post is about. Serge's Thunder history is well documented and there is no need to go over it again. Many, myself included, will miss him next season and my purpose today is to let the fans that loved him know that Serge is going to be okay after being traded to Orlando on draft night. (Alright, I'll admit it, I wanted to know he would be okay too...)
Seeing is believing and this is what I saw today.
After the press conference, Serge conducted an interview at the Magic's practice facility and showed off a little of his linguistic prowess:
I don't believe this was an easy move for Sam Presti. Serge was one of his huge successes as a young General Manager with the Thunder and both embraced their roles not only on the team but in the Oklahoma City community as well. Here are some comments from Presti after the trade:
I had forgotten that Rob Hennigan, a former Presti assistant, was running the show in Orlando and it felt good to hear Ibaka saying he thought of Hennigan as a friend and not just his GM and it was obvious that Hennigan was genuinely proud to add Serge to his team. To Serge's right was Frank Vogel a defensive minded coach that now has a player that he has, in his own words, "coveted" for many years to anchor his young squad. Serge once said that defense was his business and from what his new coach said today, Serge is about to be "back in business".
Personally, I think Serge is more than ready for this challenge. He studied under Kendrick Perkins and will be a strong leader in Orlando. As he spoke I found myself remembering this:
Now Ibaka is the Silverback and he has earned his time to shine. As much as I will miss him, I find myself celebrating his opportunity next season to be the face of his new team.
Good luck Serge, you've got this.