LA Clippers President of Basketball Operations Lawrence Frank spoke to the media on Friday, giving progress reports on some of the team’s key players. Notably, he spoke of center Serge Ibaka, who underwent season-ending back surgery back in June.
"He's made terrific progress,” Frank said of Ibaka’s recovery. “He'll start out training camp doing non-contact."
Non-contact workouts indicate Ibaka has yet to be cleared for all basketball activities following his surgery. It remains unclear if he’ll be available for any preseason games or, for that matter, to start the season.
Ibaka missed 30 games during the regular season due to an injury the organization only ever labeled as “lower back tightness.” He was able to return for the final two games of the regular season and the first two games of the postseason, but the injury proved to be too strenuous to play through, and the big man elected to have surgery to resolve it.
When healthy, Ibaka was effective last season for LA as a floor-spacing, rim-protecting center who complimented the Clippers’ stars well. The team posted a +7.4 net rating when Ibaka was on the floor.
Ibaka’s skillset will be a necessary element of LA’s offense next season, given that they added two poor shooters in Eric Bledsoe and Justise Winslow in the offseason. If he’s not available to start the year, Head Coach Tyronn Lue will likely call on Marcus Morris Sr. to play some backup center in addition to his role as a starting power forward, as he did so effectively in the 2021 postseason.
This update also makes the training camp battle for the final roster spot more interesting. Harry Giles III was signed to a non-guaranteed deal in the offseason, and Isaiah Hartenstein signed to a training camp deal recently as well. These two centers will duke it out for the role of third center for the Clippers, but given LA’s apparent caution with Ibaka, whoever claims the spot could see playing time early in the season in his absence.