While plenty of trades were completed on draft night earlier this summer, none were bigger than the four-player deal that saw Serge Ibaka head to Orlando in exchange for Victor Oladipo, Ersan Ilyasova, and No. 11 overall pick Domantas Sabonis. In his last season with the Thunder, Ibaka reportedly wasn’t thrilled with his declining role, but in a piece for The Cauldron at SI.com, the veteran big man writes that he didn’t make a trade request.
“I never asked to be traded, even though there was a lot of media conjecture that I was unhappy with my role,” Ibaka wrote. “I had an exit meeting with Billy Donovan and Sam Presti after the season, and both went well. But this is still a business, everybody has to do what’s best for them, and I let my agent deal with the business side of things. I just focus on basketball. I’m not the kind of guy who’s going to go in and ask for a trade, and I would have been happy staying with the Thunder. Playing in the NBA was my dream, and I’d be happy playing anywhere.”
Although Ibaka makes it clear that he didn’t ask the Thunder to trade him, it sounds as if agent Andy Miller was at least somewhat involved in finding his client a new home. In the days after the deal was completed, Miller told Chris Mannix of The Vertical that Oklahoma City had “overpromised and under-delivered” on a larger role for Ibaka. Assuming Ibaka agreed with that sentiment, it’s perhaps not surprising that he sounds excited by the idea of getting a fresh start in Orlando, suggesting in his SI.com piece that he feels like a rookie again.
“I’m thrilled to be in Orlando,” Ibaka wrote. “I know that might sound crazy to some people, that I’m excited to go from a contender like the Thunder to a rebuilding team, one that hasn’t made the playoffs in four years, but playing now for Frank Vogel, a coach who prides himself on defense, is very exciting for me. We have a core of like-minded, young, athletic players, which is going to be very fun. We are an old-school, smashmouth team, and I can’t wait to don a Magic uniform on opening night.”
Ibaka’s contract is set to expire after 2017, so the Magic will eventually have to work out an extension or a new free agent contract with him if they hope to keep him in the fold for more than one season.