Ibaka Happy To Stay In Oklahoma City

Tuesday, September 11th 2012, 12:52 am
By: News 9

Serge Ibaka and the Oklahoma City Thunder finally put the finishing touches on his new contract on Monday and the Congo native made something extremely clear: he's happy right where he is.

"For me it was important for me to stay, and finish what we started. And I think we can do it," Ibaka said. "And I think this is my place, where I need to be. I don't care what people say about this city or big city, no, I'm happy here."

And Oklahoma City is happy to have the 23-year-old shot blocking force at power forward for the next five years.

Ibaka, who has one year remaining on his current deal, inked a new four-year extension worth nearly $50 million. While that is a lot of money, Air Congo couldn't have flown to a bigger market for a much larger sum than the $12.25 million he is set to make annually.

That monetary sacrifice was a telling indicator of Ibaka's love for his team and Oklahoma City, as he took less than his market value in an effort to keep the Thunder's young core intact for the foreseeable future.

"You know, money is very important, too. It's important for everybody here because everybody wants to work hard to have a good life. Same like you. But also, it's not the only thing," he said. "Money will not make you happy. It's most important that you need to be happy. You need to do something you want to do. I have a contract right now that will help me, my family, everything. But it's not all."

As Ibaka said, $50 million is plenty to help support himself and his 18 brothers and sisters, who all grew up in poverty in the Republic of Congo. But no amount of money can replace what he has with the Thunder.

He said he just feels blessed for the opportunity he has before him and money was never the end goal.

"Just do it for your happiness," Ibaka said. "And I'm very happy."

Also sharing in that happiness is the Thunder organization and general manager Sam Presti.

"This is not only an athletic player that shoots the ball well but this is a player that has supreme competitiveness," Presti said. "This is a player that has an internal disciple as a work ethic. That's a quality we look for in all our players and he embodies them."

And now that Ibaka is in the fold, the sights are now firmly placed on retaining shooting guard James Harden. Keeping both Ibaka and Harden has been viewed by analysts as a near impossibility because of the high market value both could command in free agency. That is what made Ibaka signing for less so important for the Thunder.

And Ibaka, just like everyone else involved with the organization, wants to keep Harden around.

"He's a very important player for our team and we need him for our team," Ibaka said of Harden. "I think would be better if Sam told you because that's not something I can control."

But what Ibaka could control was his decision to keep wearing Thunder blue; a decision that kept him and everyone else in the room with smiles on their faces Monday afternoon.