May 15th, 2014 was a bittersweet day for the Oklahoma City Thunder. The sweet was that, with a final score of 104-98, the Oklahoma City Thunder claimed a 4-2 series victory over the Clippers to advance to the 2014 Western Conference Finals. The bitter was that another key injury was about to derail their NBA Championship hopes for at least one more year, as Serge Ibaka left the game in the 3rd quarter with an obvious left leg injury.
The diagnosis came back as a Grade 2 calf strain, which meant that the fibres in his left calf muscle were partially torn. Full recovery time for those can take anywhere from 4 to 8 weeks. Needless to say, Presti wasn’t optimistic about his return, as the strain was in an area of the calf called the plantaris.
“The recovery process is lengthy because the re-injury risk is exceptionally high. It will be unlikely that he would return if we were fortunate to make it past this next series.”
And we all know how the next series played out. It was beginning to look like a sweep until Ibaka’s unexpected Game 3 return, when the tables completely flipped on the Spurs. Spurs coach, Gregg Popovich found a way to shake Ibaka’s presence from the heads of his players following their 105-92 Game 4 beatdown, and his team ended up taking the last 2 games of the series on the way to an NBA Championship.
And now, according to information obtained by Bleacher Report’s Jared Zwerling, the injury ended up being more serious than anyone had initially let on:
Bleacher Report: Early reports had you out for the Western Conference Finals and NBA Finals after suffering a left calf strain against the Los Angeles Clippers in Round 2. Yet you made a surprisingly quick return by Game 3 vs. the Spurs. What do you remember about the injury?
Serge Ibaka: It was a complete rupture in my left calf. My calf was huge and swollen. The doctors told me, “You’re out for the playoffs. It’s over.”
B/R: So how are you feeling now?
SI: I’m not 100 percent back yet, but I’m getting better. I’m trying to get back in shape and it’s going to take time.
Okay, now Ibaka used the exact words, “complete rupture” to describe his left calf injury. If you’ve “completely ruptured”, or completely torn the muscle fibres, then that means that you have officially graduated to Grade 3 strain territory. Those types of strains can take anywhere from 3 to 4 months to fully heal properly, and surgery can be required in some cases.
Ibaka is set to join Pau Gasol in Spain for the 2014 FIBA World Cup later this month. If the injury is, in fact, as serious as Ibaka has unintentionally made it sound, he may not even be 100% by the time of the 2014 FIBA World Cup’s opening tip. If that’s the case, the Thunder might want to inform him that pulling out of the tournament to rest his calf might be in his best interest for the upcoming NBA season.
4 months from the date of the injury puts his full-heal timetable around mid-September, and the NBA regular season tips off less than 6 weeks from then. The Thunder brass might want to keep up with the specifics of that calf. Because if he continues playing on a calf that isn’t 100%, it could threaten much more than the Thunder’s season. Multiple, compounding injuries will derail his entire career outright. Rushing back to their respective sports after serious injury has caused many athletes to develop addictions to pain medication. If that happens, much more than his career will be threatened at that point.
My advice to Serge Ibaka: Take your time getting back on the hardwood. There’s no need to potentially shorten your career just to prove your toughness. It’s simply not worth it, and never will be.