The Toronto Raptors have lost another piece of their championship team to the Los Angeles Clippers.
Serge Ibaka signed a two-year deal with the Clippers worth $19 million with the second season being a player option, according to Shams Charania of The Athletic.
Toronto’s front office travelled to meet with Ibaka on Saturday evening and could have offered more money than any other competitor, but it’s unclear how much they put on the table. The Raptors may not have matched the term on the Clippers’ offer, as the Raptors are prioritizing cap flexibility for the summer of 2021 when several star free agents could be available.
For the time being, it’s a massive loss for the Raptors who must now scramble to retain free agents Marc Gasol and Chris Boucher, while also scrounging for depth pieces to fill their frontcourt. Ibaka’s efficient and reliable scoring will be sorely missed, as he grew to become a reliable finisher inside the paint and a credible 3-point threat. Neither Boucher nor Gasol replaces that skillset, and the remaining bigs on the market are dire to say the least.
Ibaka leaves Toronto as a beloved figure, both for his productivity and for his gregarious personality off the floor. He was initially billed as the long-term starter at power forward, but switched to centre and willingly accepted a bench role with the arrival of Marc Gasol. He did it all with a certain flair that matched his outgoing nature away from the game. He was willing to make sacrifices and prioritized winning above all else.
Most importantly, Ibaka was a vital piece of the Raptors’ title run. He famously backed up Kawhi Leonard’s heroics in Game 7 with three 3s off the bench, including an unforgettable pull-up jumper over Ben Simmons, in a game starved for scoring. Ibaka was also on the floor for most of the 26-3 run that overwhelmed the Milwaukee Bucks in Game 6 to send the Raptors into the Finals. And against Golden State, Ibaka finished strong with games of 20 points, 15 and 15 to secure the title.
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