LA Clippers center Serge Ibaka will pick up his $9.7 million player option, opting into the final year of his contract to remain with the Clippers for the 2021-22 season, insider Shams Charania of The Athletic reported Saturday.
The news is welcome for Clippers President of Basketball Operations Lawrence Frank, who said Thursday night following the NBA Draft that he and the team “hope” Ibaka would opt in.
Assuming good health, the Clippers will once again have their center rotation solidified with Ibaka and Ivica Zubac giving them 48 solid minutes combined. However, good health cannot necessarily be assumed with Ibaka. The 13-year veteran struggled mightily with a back injury throughout the 2020-21 season, playing in just 41 of 72 games in the regular season. Ibaka tried to give the Clippers whatever he had left in the tank in the postseason, but after fighting through back spasms through two playoff games, he elected to have season-ending back surgery.
There is no clear timetable for Ibaka’s return to action following the surgery.
When healthy, Ibaka gives the Clippers a unique weapon at center: a floor-spacer on offense that can protect the rim on defense. While Zubac is an excellent rim-runner and finisher, Ibaka gives Head Coach Tyronn Lue the luxury of being able to go five-out without sacrificing shot-blocking on the other end.
Frank is still facing the task of retaining potential free agent Kawhi Leonard, but assuming he remains in LA, Ibaka will surely help the Clippers remain competitive in Leonard’s absence as he recovers from his ACL surgery.