The Los Angeles Clippers surprised a lot of people this past offseason when they signed Serge Ibaka to a two-year, $19 million deal. The reason why the move was viewed as something of a stunner is because a lot of folks expected the 31-year-old to remain with the Toronto Raptors.
Why did he ultimately leave? According to Michael Grange of Sportsnet, friction developed over the Raptors’ handling of Marc Gasol.
“[Ibaka] understood that it might mean having to settle for a one-year deal as the club was doing everything in their power to avoid taking on commitments that would interfere with their cap space in 2021,” the report stated.
“But the Raptors’ first offer – about $12 million for the 2020-21 season – was below what he was expecting and while Toronto came up to $14 million, they were still trying to keep some powder dry to pursue Gasol.
“That didn’t go over well with Ibaka who, according to multiple sources, resented having to play behind the Spanish international and wasn’t going to sign on for a shared role again. Ibaka quickly pivoted to the Los Angeles Clippers and their two-year deal for $19 million.”
Ibaka averaged a career-high 15.4 points per game and shot 38.5 percent from beyond the arc last year. Based on that alone, it’s understandable that he would expect a little more respect than he ultimately received from Toronto.
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So far this season Ibaka is averaging 11.8 points and 7 rebounds in 25 minutes per game. While his stats are slightly decreased from where they’ve been in years past, part of that is the byproduct of him getting a bit less playing time.
Aside from accidentally almost killing Kawhi Leonard, Ibaka has objectively been a positive addition for the team and his signing will likely continue play dividends as the year progresses.
The Raptors, meanwhile, are currently 1-6 on the season and probably wishing that they handled this entire situation just a little bit better.