(Photo: Mark D. Smith, USA TODAY Sports)
It was supposed to be over. Done with. El Final. Serge Ibaka was injured midway through the Thunder’s series clinching Game Six win over the Los Angeles Clippers. Diagnosed with a Grade 2 Hamstring Strain, he was supposed to be done for the entire playoffs.
Instead, he made his comeback in Game 3 versus the San Antonio Spurs. Surpassing all expectations, he gave the Thunder back the momentum with a superhuman performance while clearly in pain after every shot contest. With a healthy Serge, the series becomes a toss up once again. The question is, can we even expect him to do it again?
A Grade 2 Hamstring Strain occurs when the hamstring muscle group is stretched to the point that a significant amount of muscle fibres are torn. While painful, it is not on the same scale as a Grade 3 strain, where the popping of the muscle itself is so loud it can be heard by teammates. It is also more severe than a Grade 1 sprain, which some people believe Serge should have been diagnosed with. I disagree, as symptoms not normally applied to Grade 1 sprains include immediate pain (he was taken out of the game) and bleeding (which Ibaka describe himself as being “severe” from looking at his MRI.)
In terms of healing time, 4-6 weeks are expected, while even Grade 1’s should take 3 weeks. It should be noted that Tony Parker was diagnosed with a Grade 1 strain in the Portland series and didn’t miss a game. It’s the big leagues, after all. The most common sense approach – rest – is an inconvenient option, so other forms of rehab are taken. From his twitter, Serge calls it “God and Ice,” and while I am not one to doubt divine interventions, resistance band training and painkillers were probably also involved.
With that being said, all it takes is one Kawhiet Riot for a Grade 2 sprain to become a Grade 3 sprain with surgery and 3 months of rehab. I don’t often agree with Scott Brook’s decisions (why was Serge left on after Pop put on the scrubs?) and this is another example. As I’ve heard, the OKC doctors deserve either to be given a raise or hired. If they win this series on the back of Ibaka’s shot-blocking, Scott Brook’s entire salary should go towards the medical staff.
Anyways, the game is starting now. Go Spurs Go.