When the Magic traded for Serge Ibaka on draft night earlier this summer, it was clear the team hoped to have in the mix beyond July 2017, when his contract expires. General manager Rob Hennigan confirmed as much at the team’s media day on Monday, telling reporters – including Josh Robbins of The Orlando Sentinel – “we certainly traded for Serge thinking long-term, and that’s our expectation.” As Robbins writes, Magic officials believe Ibaka will like playing for Frank Vogel and having a larger role in Orlando than he had in Oklahoma City.
While things could change between now and next summer, it sounds for now like Ibaka is on the same page as the Magic. During his own media day interview, the veteran big man expressed a desire to make his stay in Orlando a long-term one.
“I’m looking to stay here to play forever,” Ibaka said. “For [as] many, many years as possible.”
Ibaka went on to add that he’s not too concerned about his contract situation for now, and it’s certainly not uncommon for a player to express a desire to stay with his current team before eventually departing in free agency. However, Ibaka has been enthusiastic about the move since it happened, writing last month in a piece for The Cauldron that he was “thrilled” to be in Orlando.
With Bismack Biyombo and Nikola Vucevic also expected to receive significant playing time up front, there may be some growing pains in Orlando to start the season, as the club determines the best way to maximize its talent. Still, the Magic will be able to offer Ibaka more years and more dollars in free agency next summer than any other team, and if they’re willing to do that, there’s no reason they shouldn’t enter the 2017 offseason as the strong favorites to retain the 27-year-old.
Of course, Ibaka technically could be extended before he reaches free agency, but the Magic don’t have any cap room, so the team wouldn’t be able to give him a significant raise over his current $12.25MM salary, making an in-season deal extremely unlikely.