After missing 30 consecutive games due to a back injury, LA Clippers center Serge Ibaka made his long-awaited return to the floor in Friday night's loss to the Houston Rockets.
Surprisingly, the veteran big ended up putting together one of his most efficient outings of the season, compiling 15 points, seven rebounds and four assists in roughly 17 minutes of action.
"He said he felt good," coach Tyronn Lue said after the game. "I thought he moved well, I thought he got to the offensive rebounds, got some putbacks, rolled to the basket. I thought he looked good for being out for 30 games, so that's a good sight to see."
Ibaka also commented on his health after the game, revealing that he had been dealing with a back injury all season long.
"I'm still not 100 percent yet from my injury, but I'm getting there," Ibaka said. "I think it was just important for me to come back tonight to play, just to start getting a little bit of a rhythm before the playoffs start... I have been playing with my back pain since the beginning of the season."
Ibaka clarified that he was dealing with a nerve issue and said the pain became too severe when the Clippers played in New Orleans shortly after the All-Star break, which is when the decision was made to "shut down" and focus on recovery.
It's encouraging that Ibaka could return for Friday's contest, but it sounds as though the team will keep a close eye on him and be cautious with increasing his minutes as the team progresses toward the playoffs.
Ibaka will get one more chance to see the floor before the postseason begins when the Clippers take on the Oklahoma City Thunder on Sunday night.