For a little while there, we had us a feud. Well, sort of.
On Monday, Serge Ibaka of the Oklahoma City Thunder dared to poke the bear, questioning the defensive abilities of LeBron James, whose Miami Heat team, you will note, can take a 3-1 lead in the NBA Finals with a victory in Game 4 tonight.
James, according to Ibaka, has needed a hand defending against Kevin Durant, who was the league’s top scorer this season and is averaging 31.1 points in the series.
“That's why they're doing some switching; that's why they're going very hard [defensively] on Kevin — because [James] can't guard Kevin one-on-one,” Ibaka, who finished second in balloting for Defensive Player of the Year, said Monday. “Is he the best defender? I don't think so. I don't think LeBron can guard Kevin one-on-one for 48 minutes [without] help.”
James had time to consider the remarks and, on Tuesday offered a rebuttal.
“I don't really care what he says. ... Stupid,” James said after the Heat’s shootaround (via the Palm Beach Post). “Everyone says something to me every series. You guys keep trying to get a quote from me.”
Hmmm...did he just call Ibaka stupid? Nope. He meant this whole verbal non-dustup was stupid.
“I don’t really care what he says,” James said. “It’s stupid.”
Ibaka opted not to talk after the Thunder’s shootaround Tuesday. Instead, Durant spoke for him.
“Serge believes in me and he believes in what we do here. He’s just taking up for me and taking up for our whole team. LeBron’s a good defender. I’ll tell him that. He’s a good defender,” Durant said (via the Daily Thunder blog). “But it’s not about him, it’s about us, what we can do. We can’t come into the game worried about how he’s going to guard me, how he’s going to guard Russ, how he’s going to guard James [Harden]. We can’t worry about that. We just have to play our games and that’s basically what Serge was saying. Just play my game.”
As feuds go, this was nothing. At least not yet.
“Things are going to escalate as the series goes on,” Chris Bosh said. “So that is nothing out of the norm. You can get sick of seeing the same dude over and over and over, and you can really despise a team after playing a series against them. I think everybody in the league will tell you that. But it’s nothing out of the norm. We’ve seen everything.”