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OKC's Ibaka to help Spain defend title

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MADRID (AP)

Oklahoma Thunder forward Serge Ibaka says he is ready to help his adopted country Spain defend its European championship.

''I have to give all my energy on the court, that's my job,'' the 21-year-old Ibaka said. ''I will do everything I can to help the team.''

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Ibaka, a native of the Republic of Congo, played for Spanish clubs for three years before moving to the NBA in 2009. He became a Spanish national this month.

He'll join Pau Gasol and Marc Gasol in the front court of a squad packed with NBA talent.

''I am excited to play with point guards Ricky (Rubio), (Jose) Calderon and (Barcelona's Victor) Sada because they make other players better, and also share the paint with Pau, Marc and (Madrid forward) Felipe (Reyes),'' Ibaka said.

Pau Gasol underscored the strengths of Ibaka.

''Physically, (Ibaka) is a very good player, very powerful,'' Gasol said. ''He gives us another inside player to increase the level of competition on the team.''

Spain enters the European championship, which begins on Aug. 31 in Lithuania, as the favorite to repeat.

The two finalists automatically qualify for the 2012 London Olympics, while the third- through sixth-place finishers earn a spot in the pre-Olympic qualifying tournament.

Tagged: Lakers, Thunder, Grizzlies, Pau Gasol, Marc Gasol, Serge Ibaka

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