Just when you thought it was safe to go to bed on Day 2 of NBA Free Agency, The Athletic’s Shams Charania dropped the bomb that Serge Ibaka is planning to leave Toronto — and will sign with the Los Angeles Clippers:
That last detail made this bit of news hit even harder, because if Ibaka is interested in becoming a free agent again next offseason, the Raptors could easily have beaten $9 million on a one-year deal.
So we’re left with questions. Was it just time for Ibaka to leave? Did the Raptors balk at offering more? Is the option simply insurance against Kawhi Leonard and Paul George leaving (both have opt-outs after next season as well)?
We can only speculate for now.
Regardless, it’s a sad day. Ibaka came to the Raptors in 2017 as hope, finally, at the power forward spot that had been a disaster since Chris Bosh left town. Ibaka’s first season-and-a-half were far short of spectacular, which made the 3-year, $60 million deal he signed before 2018 seem like a huge overpay.
But Ibaka turned in his best season as a Raptor in 2018-19, helping the team win its first championship — no one will ever forget his massive three-pointer over Ben Simmons in Game 7 against Philadelphia — and then topped that season in 2019-20, averaging 15.4 points and 8.2 rebounds while shooting 52% from the floor, and 39% from downtown.
Along the way, he became beloved for his personality and off-court pursuits, including his fashion chops and his pandemic Instagram “How Talented Are You?” show.
Losing him to the Clippers, who stole Kawhi Leonard from the Raptors last offseason, is an extra jab of the knife. Sure, it’s warm, and Ibaka will undoubtedly love Hollywood, and the Clippers are more likely to compete for a championship in 2021. But still... the Clippers? Ugh.
Pour one out for MaFuzzy. You’ll be missed, King.