Raptors big man Serge Ibaka is confident his team will be ready for the NBA’s resumed season in Orlando later this month, telling reporters in a conference call that his teammates are in great shape and are ready to push for a repeat.
“I saw just how everyone is in great shape,” Ibaka said, as relayed by Tim Bontemps of ESPN. “They came here in great shape and as soon as we got here everyone was starting to put in work.
“I’ve been in the league for 11 years. You can see when people’s locked in and they are ready mentally, and when they are not. … So I can tell you right now, mentally, everybody is ready. Everybody is ready.”
Toronto won the 2019 NBA championship with a core of Ibaka, Kawhi Leonard, Pascal Siakam, Fred VanVleet, Kyle Lowry, and others. Although Leonard and Danny Green have since moved on, the team remains at the forefront of contention in the Eastern Conference.
Prior to the season being suspended on March 11, Toronto held a 46-18 record, good for second-best in the East and third-best in the league. COVID-19 will force every team in the league to adjust for the planned resumption, and the Raptors are no exception.
“Honestly it’s really concerning,” Ibaka said of the virus. “Hopefully everybody has to follow the rules, every player, when we get in the bubble in Orlando, we can respect all the notes that they’re going to give us. But I have my daughter who lives here in Orlando, and it’s kind of scary a little bit. It’s something where you have to make sure you look at it.”
There’s more from the Atlantic Division tonight:
- A. Sherrod Blakely of NBC Sports Boston explores the three-year Boston tenure of Gordon Hayward, who originally signing a deal to join the Celtics in July of 2017. “I can’t believe it’s been three years already, to be honest,” Hayward told reporters in a conference call. “A lot has happened for me, for my family.”
- The Nets are exploring potential replacements that can offer frontcourt help behind center Jarrett Allen, Brian Lewis of the New York Post writes. Brooklyn has kicked the tires on multiple free agent centers in recent days, with DeAndre Jordan and Nicolas Claxton both not playing in Orlando this summer. “We have to definitely think about that,” Nets interim head coach Jacque Vaughn said. “Sean (Marks) and I talked this morning on a call and we talked about addressing our size and not putting extra demand on Jarrett. So that could definitely be a route we take for sure. It definitely will be a little bit of a stress test for us. Whether that’s the amount of minutes that we play Jarrett Allen at 5, whether it’s being creative at the backup position, it changes rotations.”
- Vaughn has continued to build bonds with Nets stars Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving, working to keep a consistent system throughout the franchise, Lewis writes in a separate article for the New York Post. “My conversations with those guys are generally based around me checking in to see how they’re doing,” Vaughn said. “Some of those conversations lead into basketball, some of those conversations lead into life conversations, some of those conversations might lead into, ‘I have a podcast for you to listen to.’ So it ranges. For me, it’s more of the connection knowing that I’m thinking about them.”