In its most simple form, an “Energy Guy” on the basketball court is charged with changing the complexion of a game without having to dominate the ball.
For Serge Ibaka, the rising 2nd-year big man of the Oklahoma City Thunder, that means blocking seven shots in Game 2 of OKC’s first-round playoff series against the Lakers. Or forcing Tim Duncan into crucial missed shots and turnovers down the stretch of a March game against San Antonio. It’s having a cult-like following among OKC fans who give him nicknames like “The Sergeon,” “Dr. Nasty” and “Chewblocka.”
Ibaka averaged 6.3 points, 5.4 rebounds and 1.3 blocks in 18 minutes a night as an NBA rookie, but he makes his money beyond the stat sheet. In Dime #58, he talks about being a game-changer via his energy:
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“The first thing Coach (Scott) Brooks calls on me for is my energy. My game is energy. I am an energy player. That’s what everybody knows. That’s what he asks of me. When I come off the bench, I am supposed to bring some energy to my team. I’m supposed to change the game. That’s my job.
“Every time when I am called, I just try to give 100 percent energy. That’s why I am in the NBA. That’s why I play for the Oklahoma City Thunder. I understand my job. It is easy if you understand your job and you keep your focus on your job. We are a good team because everybody understands their job. We all bring good things (to the table).
“Everyone has energy, but it’s all about what you do with it. That’s what I learned in the playoffs. In Game 2 in L.A. when I had the seven blocked shots, that was a game where my energy helped us a lot.
“I know I can score and I know I can shoot the ball, but I am more focused on what I need to do defensively for my team to win. We are a team where everybody can shoot the ball. We have Kevin Durant. We have Russell Westbrook and Jeff Green, Thabo Sefolosha, Nenad Krstic, Nick Collison. We have James Harden. Everybody can shoot the ball. So I just stay more focused on what I need to do to help my team win. That’s why I try to bring more energy and try to block every shot. I try to give some enthusiasm when I am called.
“For next season, I want to improve my defense first. That’s my business and that’s what I know my team needs. Everybody knows that’s my business, my defense. So that’s why I try to be better for next year, next season. I need to work on my offensive game, too. Whether I expand my role all depends on my work and what I do this summer to bring something different into training camp. If you do your work well and do everything that the coach wants you to do, he will give you a better position.”