When the LA Clippers roll into Utah to take on the Jazz on Wednesday night, they’ll be without the services of veteran big man Serge Ibaka. Per The Athletic’s Law Murray, he was a close contact in a Covid situation but has since registered a negative test result. However, he’s still listed as out due to personal reasons.
That said, the Clippers have really been without Ibaka’s services for a while now. After a lengthy recovery from back surgery and a stint in the G League, Ibaka has been a healthy scratch from multiple games recently.
“Yes, he’s available,” Clippers coach Tyronn Lue said when asked about Ibaka’s DNPs on Saturday, via the Orange County Register.
Lue was later probed regarding any discussions he and Ibaka may have had about the player’s role going forward. The coach was similarly coy with his response. “[We] keep that between us,” he said on Monday. “But we’ve had conversations and that’s all about all I can go into.”
Ibaka is clearly less concerned about keeping up appearances; he just liked a post on Twitter opining that he had a 90% chance of being traded by December 15.
Are the Clippers Shopping Ibaka?
Ibaka was a hot commodity during the 2020 offseason. After having helped the Raptors capture their first NBA title the previous summer, the Clippers beat out other clubs with a two-year, $19 million contract offer. Their hope was that he could have a similar impact in LA.
He did, too, at least in the early going (before his back issues took center stage). Over 41 games played, Ibaka averaged 11.1 points, 6.7 rebounds and 1.1 blocks per contest. He also hit just enough of his triples (33.9%) to make opponents guard him on the perimeter.
The big man’s world changed, though, when he was still sidelined to begin the 2021-22 campaign. In his stead, Ivica Zubac is putting together a career year, logging a 10-8-1 line while making 66.9% of his shots. However, Isaiah Hartenstein has been the real revelation.
A former second-round pick, Hartenstein was essentially signed as an insurance policy. But he has since cemented himself as an integral part of Lue’s rotation. In just 16 minutes off the bench each night, he has put up 7.4 points, 4.7 boards and 1.2 blocks per game.
Consequently, there doesn’t appear to be a spot for Ibaka in the rotation. And there’s a real chance he is being held out while team president Lawrence Frank works to find a trade for him.
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Ibaka Was Willing to Do Anything to Get Back on the Court
The notion that the Clippers are actively shopping Ibaka is a wild one given where he was just a few, short years ago. If that is truly the case, it may be a commentary on the toll his injury has taken on him. However, Ibaka himself has said “it wasn’t that bad,” and even if it was an issue, he was clearly willing to go to any length to rediscover himself.
Upon his return, Ibaka actually volunteered for his G League assignment. It was a move that drew big-time praise from Lue.
“He wanted to get down and find his rhythm,” Lue said at the time. “He said right now the game is a little fast for him, so he wanted to go down to the G League and just play and get reps, get his conditioning up, get his timing.”
Lue added, “When you got a guy who’s a 13-year vet, that’s a true professional. Just trying to do what he can to get back and help us out in any way he can, so that was good to see.”