Serge Ibaka shows just how thrilled he is with how things turned out for Spain. (Getty Images)
Rising Oklahoma City Thunder star Serge Ibaka entered the 2012 Summer Olympics in London talking a little bit of smack about the big, bad U.S. men's national team, calling his own Spain squad Team USA's equal. It nearly was in the final game of the Olympic tournament, pushing the U.S. for four quarters but ultimately falling seven points short and having to again settle for silver.
Ibaka played his best ball of the tournament against the U.S., scoring 12 points and grabbing nine rebounds in just 22 minutes. That "just" appears to have irked Ibaka, though — according to reports emanating from Spain, the 22-year-old big man was very displeased with the way he was used and the lack of floor time he saw during Spain's eight-game run to Silver.
According to a translation of a piece by Luis Fernando López of the Spanish newspaper El Mundo, Ibaka expressed anger both publicly and privately during the Olympics in a variety of ways:
After practice, while the other players shared coffee or fruit, the Thunder big man put as much distance as possible [between him and his teammates]. The day before the final, for example, he waited alone on the bus for half an hour, looking heated. The evening before the semifinals, he wandered through a field near the stadium, gesticulating in an unfriendly manner while talking on the phone. Every evening, after workouts, he crossed between the handful of journalists, and only someone suicidal would have dared to stop him.
López goes on to say that Ibaka "felt underused and questioned his standing on the team," and that his distance was a response to frustration with the role carved out for him by national team coach Sergio Scariolo, he of the Etch-a-Sketch-style sideline board (which was reportedly produced especially for Scariolo by ERARCO Marketing Solutions in Madrid). Just how upset was Ibaka?
"If things continue like this, I will not return," he admitted to close friends before the final.
We're betting that Ibaka's not nearly as angry these days, what with that new four-year, $48 million contract extension now safely tucked under his belt. After having taken a couple of deep, money-infused breaths, we'd also hope that he realized his "standing on the team" was pretty much exactly what he should have expected it to be when he joined up with Spain after becoming a naturalized citizen in July 2011.
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