Should Serge Ibaka Risk His Career by Playing in Game 3 vs. San Antonio Spurs?

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By James Patrick Quizon | May 25, 2014 10:07 PM EST

The Oklahoma City Thunder-San Antonio best-of-seven series in the Western Conference Finals have been one-sided so far.

How much of a mismatch has it been so far? The Spurs won Game 1 by 17 points, 122-105 and Game 2 by 45 points, 112-77 for a whopping 26.0 average margin of victory for the West defending champions. San Antonio now leads 2-0 in the series and now needs just two victories to return to the NBA Finals.

Reuters
NBA: Playoffs-Oklahoma City Thunder at Los Angeles Clippers

There have been talks of changing the starting line-up for Oklahoma: moving Caron Butler to the starting five to replace Thabo Sefalosha or even going small very early to try to negate the Spurs’ excellent ball movement and blinding speed on offense. But the prominent talk out of the OKC camp is that the injured Serge Ibaka will be back in action by Game 3, when the series shifts back to their home floor.

Should Ibaka risk being injured, possibly career-defining if not career-ending and try to return in this series? Or should the naturalized Spaniard just sit out the rest of the postseason and not threaten his long-term health?

"Right now I'm waiting for the team doctor to confirm, and also it's depending on whether I will go tomorrow, day by day, and see," Ibaka said to ESPN.com. "It's 100 percent going to hurt. For sure if the doctor gives me the OK and I feel better tomorrow, I will be 100 percent with the pain for sure, but like I said, I'm going to do whatever it takes to help my team."

The Thunder are in desperate mode after the embarrassing beating at the hands of their Western rivals. A potential return for Ibaka in Game 3 immediately gives the black-and-blue OKC squad a confidence-boost mentally. And against the efficient and excellent system by the Spurs—both on offense and defense- even a 50 per cent Ibaka will certainly help OKC’s cause.

Ibaka suffered a left calf strain in Game 6 versus the Los Angeles Clippers in the conference semifinals on May 15 and was initially diagnosed to be out of the season. But on Friday, reports started trickling in that the Ibaka was listed as day-to-day by the team.

"You know, I'm the type of guy, I've been through a lot when I was young," added Ibaka in the same article. "Since I've come here, nothing is for me, so I know it's going to be tough. I understand it's going to be tough, but I will get my mind ready, whatever, like I said, the doctor give me the OK, I'll be ready to go."

Physioworks.com.au list three levels in calf strains:

Grade 1: The muscle is stretched causing some small micro tears in the muscle fibres. Recovery takes approximately 2 to 4 weeks if you do all the right things.

Grade 2: There is partial tearing of muscle fibres. Full recovery takes approximately 4 to 8 weeks with good rehabilitation.

Grade 3: This is the most severe calf strain with a complete tearing or rupture of muscle fibres in the lower leg. Full recovery can take 3-4 months and, in some instances, surgery may be needed.

So from the looks of things Ibaka's injury is just on the first grade although the OKC team doctors have not shared anything specific. 

Be a warrior and risk his health? Or be wise about the injury and think about his future NBA career? What should be Ibaka’s decision?

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(Photo: Reuters / )
NBA: Playoffs-Oklahoma City Thunder at Los Angeles Clippers
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