Serge Ibaka

International Notes: EuroLeague, Exum, Reath, Cauley-Stein, Zizic

Kemba Walker is among several former NBA players struggling to make the adjustment to the EuroLeague, writes Dimitris Minaretzis of Eurohoops. After signing with AS Monaco this summer, the 33-year-old guard is averaging just 4.4 points and 1.1 assists per game as he fights for playing time in a crowded backcourt. Knee injuries plagued Walker throughout the end of his NBA career, and they appear to still be limiting his effectiveness in Europe.

Elsewhere, Minaretzis notes that FC Barcelona’s Jabari Parker is averaging 9.4 points and 4.6 rebounds per game, while KK Partizan has PJ Dozier at 9.2 points and 3.2 assists per night and Frank Kaminsky at 8.6 points and 3.1 rebounds per game.

The only players who are standing out after being on NBA rosters last season are Serge Ibaka, who’s averaging 12.3 points and 6.9 rebounds per game for Bayern Munich, and Kendrick Nunn, who is at 11.6 points and 2.5 assists per night with Panathinaikos. Ibaka has previous EuroLeague experience, having played in Spain before being drafted in 2008.

There’s more international news to pass along:

  • After making a surprising impact with their NBA clubs, Dante Exum and Duop Reath are in contention for starting spots with the Australian Olympic team, according to Olgun Uluc of ESPN. Exum, who recently moved into the Mavericks‘ starting lineup because of his strong play, is averaging 15.6 points, 4.4 rebounds and 4.2 assists over his last 10 games, and Uluc notes that he’s given Dallas a secondary ball-handler while serving as a strong complement to Luka Doncic. Reath has become a productive weapon for the Trail Blazers after earning a two-way deal in camp. He provides an outside shooting threat and has reached double figures in scoring in seven of Portland’s last 10 games. Reath posted a career-high 25 points against Sacramento this week and may have surpassed Jock Landale as the Boomers’ best option at center.
  • Willie Cauley-Stein‘s first venture in Europe has ended after 20 games, per Dario Skerletic of Sportando. Pallacanestro Varese announced that it has parted ways with the 30-year-old center, who averaged 9.9 points, 9.0 rebounds and 1.1 blocks for the Italian team.
  • Croatian center Ante Zizic has signed with Virtus Bologna, the team announced in a press release. Zizic, 26, was a first-round pick in 2017 and played 113 total games with Cleveland from 2017 to 2020. He captured a Turkish championship and the President’s Cup last season with Anadolu Efes.

And-Ones: Ibaka, Foster, Dragic, Olympic Qualifiers

Serge Ibaka is focused more on contributing to his new EuroLeague team than returning to the NBA, writes Donatas Urbonas of BasketNews (subscription required). Ibaka signed with FC Bayern Munich this summer and is adjusting to being back in Europe again after spending the past 14 seasons in the NBA. He’s coming off a season-best 20-point game and is averaging 11.1 points and 6.1 rebounds per night while shooting 56.7% from the floor for the German squad.

The 34-year-old big man is grateful to be playing again after ending last season in limbo. He appeared in just 16 games with Milwaukee before being traded at the February deadline to Indiana, which waived him two days later.

“My focus is playing in Bayern. I want to keep improving here,” Ibaka said. “Playing basketball is one of the most beautiful things one can do. I didn’t play for 10 months and now I’m playing basketball, something I like to do. I’m grateful for this moment.”

There’s more from around the basketball world:

  • Gerald Bourguet of PHNX Sports believes the NBA needs to address its Scott Foster situation after the official’s latest incident with Warriors guard Chris Paul Wednesday night. Calling Foster “a prima donna ref” with an “outrageous and unchecked ego,” Bourguet points out that he ruined Paul’s return to Phoenix by giving him two quick technicals and ejecting him late in the first half. Suns fans turned out to welcome back one of the most significant players in franchise history, but Foster upstaged that by extending the long-running feud he has with Paul. Suns star Devin Booker told reporters that he could feel the tension between Foster and Paul before the ejection. “Yeah, ’cause I’ve seen it closely too,” Booker said. “This was long before Chris was in Phoenix, so that’s some history that they might have to settle between themselves one day, when they’re both retired.”
  • Partizan Belgrade and Olimpia Milano are among the teams that have expressed interest in Goran Dragic, relays Ennio Terrasi Borghesan of Sportando. The report, which originated in the Serbian media outlet SportKlub, said Dragic is still hoping for an NBA offer and is reluctant to commit to a European team. The 37-year-old point guard wasn’t picked up this summer after spending last season with Chicago and Milwaukee.
  • Spain, Latvia, Greece, and Puerto Rico have emerged as the favorites to host Olympic qualifying tournaments for the 2024 Games in Paris, Urbonas adds in a separate story. A draw ceremony is set for November 27 in Switzerland, and the official announcement of the host nations is expected before then. Twenty-four nations will be vying for four Olympic spots in the six-team qualifying tournaments.

International Notes: Ibaka, Satoransky, Parker, Sarr

Serge Ibaka hopes to prove he can still play at a high level as he joins FC Bayern Munich in Germany. In an interview posted on the team’s website, Ibaka expressed excitement about resuming his career overseas.

“For me, it is a privilege to be able to join this historic, globally renowned sports club so that the basketball team can rise to the top of Europe,” he said. “I had a long NBA career, but I approach this new chapter with a lot of enthusiasm – I still have a lot of fire in me and love the game.”

Ibaka played professionally in France and Spain before coming to the Thunder in 2009, so he’s familiar with European basketball. He was part of the foundation in Oklahoma City for several seasons and won a ring with Toronto in 2019, but his playing time has been declining for the past few seasons. Ibaka averaged just 11.6 minutes in 16 games with the Bucks last season before a trade at the February deadline sent him to the Pacers, who waived him two days later.

“I always give my all to the game, and I definitely plan to do the same here in Munich and hopefully help the younger players,” Ibaka said. “On the court, I want to assist the team with everything that is needed, starting from defense to my shooting range. I want to be a part of a team that collaborates and has a winning mentality.”

There’s more international news to pass along:

  • Former NBA guard Tomas Satoransky hopes to help Jabari Parker make the transition to Europe with FC Barcelona, according to Cesare Milanti of Eurohoops. Parker’s first major test will come against Real Madrid in the semifinals of Supercopa Endesa. “Jabari’s situation is a little more complicated because it is his first year in Europe and this is always difficult, especially if you come in a league as competitive as the ACB,” Satoransky said. “But I see him very well and he really wants to improve.”
  • Perth center Alexandre Sarr talks to Kevin O’Connor of The Ringer (video link) about his performance in the G League Fall Invitational and his potential to be the top pick in next year’s draft.
  • Kevin Durant, Ja Morant and Devin Booker are serving as coaches for Saturday’s finals of the Nike World Basketball Festival in New York, per Adam Zagoria of ZagsBlog.

Serge Ibaka Signs With Bayern Munich

Free agent forward/center Serge Ibaka has signed with German club FC Bayern Munich for the upcoming season, according to a press release from the team.

We are incredibly proud and happy that such a highly decorated athlete like Serge Ibaka believes in our journey,” club president Herbert Heiner said, per the release. “We are convinced that he will not only be a tremendous asset in terms of sports but also a enrichment for German basketball. I am certain that our young players will greatly benefit from his vast experience.

Ibaka, who won an NBA championship with the Raptors in 2019, holds career averages of 12.0 points, 7.1 rebounds and 1.9 blocks across 919 NBA appearances (697 starts).

The 6’10” big man was originally drafted by the Thunder (then SuperSonics) with the No. 24 overall pick in the 2008 draft. Oklahoma City brought Ibaka over in the 2009/10 season and he played there through 2016, helping the team reach the 2012 NBA Finals.

During his time with the Thunder, Ibaka became one of the league’s premier shot blockers, averaging 2.5 blocks across 524 appearances with Oklahoma City. In arguably his best defensive season, the year the Thunder fell in the 2012 Finals, Ibaka averaged 3.7 blocks.

In the 2016 offseason, Ibaka was traded to the Magic in the deal that landed Victor Oladipo and Domantas Sabonis in Oklahoma City. The Congolese big appeared in 56 games with Orlando before being traded to the Raptors at the 2017 trade deadline in exchange for Terrence Ross. Ibaka was a key rotation piece for Toronto’s championship team, putting up 15.0 points per night in the regular season and 9.4 PPG and 6.0 RPG in 24 playoff games.

After leaving the Raptors following the 2019/20 season, Ibaka had brief stints with the Clippers and Bucks before being traded at the 2023 deadline to the Pacers, who waived him.

In signing Ibaka, Bayern Munich is getting a two-time NBA block champ and three-time All-Defensive Team member. The release mentions the team’s roster is complete with the signing, putting the finishing touches on an impressive offseason that saw the club ink former NBAers Carsen Edwards and Leandro Bolmaro.

Ibaka is Oklahoma City’s all-time franchise leader in total blocks, with 1,300, and in blocks per game, with 2.5.

[Ibaka]’s career speaks for itself,” Bayern Munich sport director Daniele Baiesi said, per the release. “With him, we get size, the ability to open up the court, and a huge presence on and off the field. Without a doubt, this is a very prestigious transfer and demonstrates the credibility of our program.

Serge Ibaka Hopes To Keep Playing In NBA

Veteran big man Serge Ibaka, who has been in the NBA for 14 seasons, is still looking for his next opportunity as free agency’s second month gets underway.

In a new interview with Shams Charania of The Athletic (Twitter video link), Ibaka explained how he can still help clubs in the league ahead of the 2023/24 season.

“A lot of things that I can bring to a team… basketball, experience of winning, playing with great players,” Ibaka said.

Speaking to Charania, the 33-year-old explained, from his perspective, how his season as a deep-bench reserve with the Bucks went awry. He was flipped to the Pacers in February as part of the four-team deal that sent Kevin Durant to the Suns, and Indiana subsequently waived him. Ibaka claimed that Milwaukee told him ahead of the year that he would be used as an injury replacement.

“[Then-head coach Mike Budenholzer] told me to my face: Listen, you’re coming here, I promise you nothing — but you never know, it’s a long season, guys can have injuries, you have to stay ready,” Ibaka said (h/t to The Athletic’s Eric Nehm and other staffers).

That proved not to be the case, and the club was cagey about why it continued to mostly hold him out even when big men ahead of him in the team’s rotation were hurt.

“It got to some point where I cannot take this anymore,” Ibaka said. “I love this game so much, but if this is going to take my peace of mind, my joy, it’s not worth it. I earned my respect in this league. At least communicate. I’m not asking about playing, I’m just asking for communication.”

Across just 16 games with the Bucks, the 6’10” center/power forward averaged 4.1 PPG and 2.8 RPG last season. Though the 2019 NBA champion may no longer be his peak All-Defensive Team self, he at least seems optimistic that he has more left to give.

Trade Breakdown: Kevin Durant To The Suns (Four-Team Deal)

This is the ninth entry in our series breaking down the significant trades of the 2022/23 season. As opposed to giving out grades, this series explores why the teams were motivated to make the moves. Let’s dive into the biggest blockbuster of the year, a four-team deal between the Suns, Nets, Bucks and Pacers.

Trade details

On February 9:

  • The Suns acquired Kevin Durant and T.J. Warren.
  • The Nets acquired Mikal Bridges, Cameron Johnson, the Suns’ 2023 first-round pick (unprotected), the Suns’ 2025 first-round pick (unprotected), the Suns’ 2027 first-round pick (unprotected), the Suns’ 2029 first-round pick (unprotected), the right to swap first-round picks with the Suns in 2028, the Bucks’ 2028 second-round pick, the Bucks’ 2029 second-round pick, and the draft rights to Juan Pablo Vaulet (from Pacers).
  • The Bucks acquired Jae Crowder.
  • The Pacers acquired Jordan Nwora, George Hill, Serge Ibaka, a 2023 second-round pick (likely the Cavaliers’ second-rounder; from Bucks), the Bucks’ 2024 second-round pick, the Pacers’ 2025 second-round pick (from Bucks), and cash ($1.36MM; from Nets).
  • Note: The Bucks acquired the Pacers’ 2025 second-round pick in a prior trade.

The Suns’ perspective:

After posting a losing record for seven straight seasons – and missing the playoffs for 10 straight – the Suns had a remarkable turnaround in 2020/21, going 51-21 and reaching the NBA Finals, ultimately losing in six games to the Bucks. Last season, the Suns held the league’s top record at 64-18, but had a meltdown in their second-round loss to Dallas, getting blown out at home in Game 7.

Phoenix was reportedly high on Durant’s list of preferred destinations when he requested a trade this past offseason, but there were rumors of low-ball offers from rival teams and Brooklyn was said to be disinterested in obliging his request.

A few weeks later, there were questions about Deandre Ayton’s eagerness to be back in Phoenix after he signed a four-year, maximum-salary offer sheet from the Pacers over the summer amid tensions with head coach Monty Williams. The Suns quickly matched, however, signaling they still valued the former first overall pick, even if his role sometimes fluctuates.

In mid-September, former owner Robert Sarver was suspended by the NBA for a year and fined $10MM for workplace misconduct, including racist and misogynistic comments, following a lengthy investigation. He subsequently decided to sell his controlling stake in the franchise to Mat Ishbia, which was finalized shortly before last month’s deadline.

Finally, right before training camp opened, Crowder said he wasn’t going to participate, as he was reportedly unhappy with Williams after being told he would come off the bench (he had started the previous two years). The Suns then made an announcement saying the two sides would work together to find Crowder a new team.

Despite all the turmoil, ‘22/23 started out pretty well, with Phoenix going 15-6 over its first 21 games. Unfortunately, Johnson tore his meniscus during that span, and Chris Paul was sidelined by a foot injury until early December. The Suns lost five straight shortly thereafter, with star guard Devin Booker going down with a groin injury in mid-December.

Obviously, Crowder being away while Johnson was hurt didn’t help. Torrey Craig did an admirable job filling in, as did Ish Wainright, who was promoted to a standard deal from a two-way contract last month. But ideally, neither player would be logging heavy minutes on a championship-caliber team.

Paul is 37 years old (38 in May), and he is not the same player he was when the Suns made the Finals a couple years ago. He’s still good, just not on the same level, particularly from a scoring standpoint. That’s a huge deal, because he was Phoenix’s second-best player during the previous two seasons.

The Suns reportedly offered up Paul in an effort to land Kyrie Irving from Brooklyn shortly before Durant made his own request. I don’t know if those rumors are true, but either way, CP3 stayed put.

By mid-January, the Suns were just 21-24, and the season was slipping away. They recovered well leading up to the trade deadline, going 9-2 over that span to sit with a 30-26 record prior to February 9. Still, the damage had been done. I don’t think the Suns make this trade – specifically the way the deal was structured – if they still believed they were a real championship contender without acquiring Durant.

Ishbia played a major role in the deal. Even before he was officially approved by the league’s Board of Governors, a report came out saying the Suns were willing to make win-now moves, and he talked about being aggressive just before the deadline. He was also quickly willing to sign off on the extra $40MM the deal cost the Suns in salaries and tax penalties, a stark departure from the previous ownership group.

A report from ESPN indicated that president of basketball operations James Jones wanted to negotiate the inclusion of Bridges or add protections to the first-round picks, but the Nets held firm in their demands. The Suns also may have had another deal lined up for Crowder, but he ultimately was included in this trade as well.

Durant is in the first season of a four-year, $194MM extension. Booker, Durant and Ayton are all under contract through at least ’25/26. If healthy, those three alone make up a very strong (and expensive) core. It remains to be seen how long Paul will be around – his $30.8MM contract for next season is guaranteed for $15.8MM, and it is fully non-guaranteed in ‘24/25.

Durant is one of the greatest players in NBA history. He is a former league MVP, two-time Finals MVP, 13-time All-Star, 10-time All-NBA member and four-time scoring champion.

In 981 career regular season games (36.7 MPG), he has averaged 27.3 PPG, 7.1 RPG, 4.3 APG, 1.1 SPG and 1.1 BPG on .499/.384/.886 shooting. In 155 career playoff games (40.4 MPG), he has averaged 29.4 PPG, 7.8 RPG, 4.1 APG, 1.0 SPG and 1.2 BPG on .476/.356/.866 shooting. He is the definition of a superstar.

Despite being 34 years old and tearing his Achilles tendon four years ago, he continues to play at an incredibly high level. In fact, when healthy, you could easily make a case for Durant being the best player in the league this season.

In 42 games (35.7 MPG), he has averaged 29.5 PPG, 6.8 RPG, 5.2 APG and 1.5 BPG on .566/.386/.931 shooting, good for an absurd .681 true shooting percentage. The FG%, FT% and TS% are all career highs. He is shooting 62.9% on twos, which is ridiculous considering the majority of his shots are mid-range jumpers.

Durant is also playing very motivated and strong defense in ‘22/23, which surprised me a bit because he had coasted on that end at times the past couple seasons. His teams have gone 29-13 this season when he has played, which is the equivalent of the second-best winning percentage (69.0%) in the league, only trailing the Bucks (71.8%).

Durant can do everything on the court at a high level. He’s 6’10” with a 7’5” wingspan, but he possesses guard-like skills, with elite shooting and excellent ball-handling. His passing has improved throughout his career, and when he tries, he is a top-tier defender. He is a matchup nightmare.

After playing in just four games from 2020-22 due to a couple of left foot surgeries, Warren finally returned to the court for the Nets in December, averaging 9.5 PPG and 2.8 RPG on .510/.333/.818 shooting in 26 games (18.8 MPG).

He clearly wasn’t at his best physically or from a production standpoint (he averaged a career-high 19.8 PPG on .536/.403/.819 shooting the season before getting injured), but he was still contributing off the bench. Warren has hardly played in his second stint with Phoenix, however, averaging just 6.4 MPG in eight games. He’s on a one-year, veteran’s minimum contract, so he might not be back next season.

A few weeks after the trade was completed, Ishbia claimed the move carried “no risk.” That, of course, isn’t true.

Durant has gone down with a sprained MCL a few seasons in a row. You could say that’s a fluke, since it has involved players falling into his knee. But that doesn’t change the fact that he’s played 35, 55 and 42 games over the past three seasons after missing all of ‘19/20 with a torn Achilles.

His ankle sprain on a routine layup while warming up prior to his fourth game with Phoenix was concerning. I could very well be wrong, but to my eyes, it didn’t look like he slipped; it looked like his ankle just gave out and rolled.

Durant is in his 16th season, has made several long playoff runs, and has also played in the World Cup (once) and the Olympics (three times) for Team USA. He’s still incredible, but the tread on his tires are pretty worn.

Giving up Bridges and Johnson stings. They were key role players for Phoenix who both improved tremendously throughout their Suns tenures, which we’ll get into more shortly.

Anytime you give up an unprotected pick in a future season it’s a risk. The Suns gave up three beyond 2023 — four if you count the 2028 pick swap, which will only be exercised if Phoenix is worse than Brooklyn.

Those picks from 2027-29 in particular could be extremely valuable. Durant will be 37 when his contract expires after ’25/26. Will he still be playing at this level, and will the Suns want to keep him if he’s not?

The Suns knew the risks. But the West is seemingly up for grabs, and they had faltered in their quest to make it back to the Finals.

I can’t say adding Durant made Phoenix the favorite in the West, but he nearly carried the Nets to the Finals with both Irving and James Harden injured a couple years ago. If healthy, this team will be extremely dangerous.

The Nets’ perspective:

The Nets were literally an inch or two away from sending Milwaukee home in Game 7 of their second-round series in 2021, which saw the Bucks prevail in overtime after Durant’s foot was on the three-point line on a potential game-winning buzzer-beater. The Bucks went on to win the championship.

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Haynes’ Latest: Suns, Rose, Curry, Lonzo, Kleber, More

Sources tell Chris Haynes of Bleacher Report that the Knicks will not be picking up Derrick Rose‘s $15.6MM team option for 2023/24. While that news is hardly surprising considering the 34-year-old former MVP is out of New York’s rotation, Haynes has also heard that the Suns would be interested in Rose if he reaches a buyout agreement.

There have been mixed reports regarding Rose potentially going for a buyout with the Knicks. While it still seems “unlikely,” sources tell Haynes not to rule it out entirely.

Haynes’ report came before the Suns filled their last remaining standard roster spot with Ish Wainright, who was promoted from a two-way deal. It’s unclear who the team would consider waiving if Rose became available, as there aren’t any obvious candidates.

Here’s more from Haynes:

  • Warriors star Stephen Curry is set to be reevaluated on Wednesday in his recovery from a left knee injury. Curry was optimistic about the injury but said it was frustrating with so few games remaining and the team in a precarious position. “I can’t give a target date because this isn’t an injury I’ve dealt with before. So, I just have to be careful and patient,” Curry told Haynes. “It’s a frustrating process because unlike the other injuries I’ve been through, this is one where games are running out and we need to climb up the standings fast to make these playoffs. That’s the hard part, but I’m going to do what’s right and try to help my team make this push when I return.”
  • Injured Bulls guard Lonzo Ball is planning to receive a platelet-rich plasma (PRP) injection to help combat the left knee soreness he’s been dealing with following two knee surgeries last year, sources tell Haynes. Chicago recently ruled Ball out for the season; he last played in January 2022.
  • The Mavericks are optimistic about Maxi Kleber returning from his torn hamstring within the next five games, per Haynes, though Kleber already said he’d be out Sunday versus the Lakers. One of the team’s best defenders, the versatile Kleber last played on December 12, having missed the past 34 games with the injury.
  • Serge Ibaka and Will Barton, a couple of veteran free agents, are “waiting for the right opportunities to present themselves,” Haynes writes. Ibaka was released by Indiana after being traded by Milwaukee, while Barton reached a buyout agreement with Washington.

Heat Notes: Love, D. Robinson, Injuries, Herro

The Heat may be able to attract Kevin Love by offering a starting role, writes Ira Winderman of The Sun-Sentinel. News broke late Wednesday night that Love is involved in buyout talks with the Cavaliers, and Miami was mentioned as a possible destination for the 34-year-old big man, who was recently removed from the rotation in Cleveland.

Caleb Martin currently serves as the Heat’s starting power forward, but at 6’5″ it’s not his natural position. Love could bring more size, better rebounding and improved passing to the starting lineup if he can be convinced to sign with Miami. Winderman notes that the addition of Love would also reduce the urgency to give a standard contract to Orlando Robinson, who is nearing the end of his eligibility on his two-way deal.

The Heat have their full $4MM+ bi-annual exception available, as well as $3MM+ on their mid-level exception, which gives them an advantage in the buyout market over teams that are limited to minimum-salary offers. Miami has also been linked to players such as Russell Westbrook and Patrick Beverley, but Winderman hears that the front office is prioritizing front-line help over a guard, making Love or Serge Ibaka a more likely target (Twitter link).

There’s more from Miami:

  • Duncan Robinson was able to return Wednesday after finger surgery in January sidelined him for the past 20 games, per Anthony Chiang of The Miami Herald. Robinson, who still feels discomfort in his finger, was originally expected to be sidelined until after the All-Star break, but he played Wednesday because the team has so many other injured players. “That was one of the things that I knew when I elected to do the procedure is that there was going to be pain,” Robinson said. “But it’s significantly less than it was before and it functions better than it did before.”
  • The Heat will welcome the All-Star break to heal up from their injuries, Chiang adds. Tyler Herro, Nikola Jovic, Kyle Lowry, Victor Oladipo and Omer Yurtseven were all unavailable Wednesday, and Miami ranks second in the league with 235 missed games. All five players are expected back at varying points after the break ends. “The biggest thing for us is we’re glad everybody will get fresh legs,” Martin said. “We’ve been down a lot of guys most of the season, so it will be good to get everybody fresh from the jump.”
  • Herro is considered day-to-day with a left knee contusion, but he’s still expected to participate in the three-point contest at All-Star Weekend, according to Chiang.

Heat Notes: Yurtseven, Lowry, O. Robinson, Ibaka

The Heat’s approach to the buyout market may depend on the prognosis for Omer Yurtseven and Kyle Lowry, writes Anthony Chiang of The Miami Herald. Miami will have two roster openings when Jamaree Bouyea‘s two-way contract expires and will have to fill at least one of them within two weeks of that date.

Yurtseven is recovering after undergoing left ankle surgery in November and is expected to make his season debut shortly after the All-Star break. He appeared in 56 games as a rookie last season and might be entrusted with the backup center minutes. If the Heat are confident in Yurtseven, they may not look to add a free agent big man.

Chiang notes that the team’s level of confidence in Yurtseven could also affect Orlando Robinson, who has been the reserve center for the past month but can only be on the active roster for six more games on his two-way contract. Miami could fill one of its roster spots by converting Robinson to a standard deal, which would make him eligible for the playoffs, but the need to do that is lessened if Yurtseven takes over as the backup center.

Lowry, who’s dealing with soreness in his left knee, is expected to miss the rest of February and maybe more time beyond that, according to Chiang. The Heat are rumored to be a potential suitor for Russell Westbrook if he reaches a buyout with Utah, and Lowry’s health could affect how they proceed.

There’s more on the Heat:

  • There may be mutual interest with Serge Ibaka, who was waived by the Pacers over the weekend, Chiang adds. The 33-year-old only played 16 games for the Bucks before being traded, but he could provide shot blocking and outside shooting, along with a wealth of playoff experience.
  • Chiang points out that Miami can be competitive on the buyout market following last week’s trade of Dewayne Dedmon. The Heat are now almost $5MM under the threshold, allowing them to use their $4.1MM bi-annual exception or the roughly $3.2MM left on their mid-level exception without facing tax penalties.
  • Lowry’s injury may open the door to making him a bench player once he returns, suggests Ira Winderman of The Sun-Sentinel. Even when healthy, Lowry hasn’t been up to his usual standards this season, averaging just 12.0 PPG while shooting 39.6% from the field and 33.3% from three-point range. Gabe Vincent has been starting at point guard while Lowry is sidelined, and a buyout addition could take over that job for the rest of the season.

Pacers Officially Waive Serge Ibaka

As expected, the Pacers have waived veteran center Serge Ibaka. The team confirmed the transaction in a press release.

Ibaka was traded from Milwaukee to Indiana on deadline day, but he was only included for salary-matching purposes in the four-team trade that sent Jae Crowder to the Bucks (and, of course, Kevin Durant to the Suns). A Thursday report indicated that he would be released by the Pacers.

Ibaka, 33, hasn’t looked the same after having back surgery a couple years ago. This season with the Bucks, he averaged a career-low 11.6 minutes per game in 16 appearances, putting up 4.1 PPG and 2.8 RPG on .481/.333/.615 shooting in his limited role. He and the Bucks agreed last month that he’d remain away from the team as the two sides sought a trade.

Ibaka has a strong NBA track record, having been one of the league’s best shot blockers during his time in Oklahoma City and playing a key part on a championship team in Toronto in 2019. We should get a sense based on how much interest he draws in free agency whether teams still believe he has something left in the tank.

The big man will clear waivers on Monday, assuming he goes unclaimed.

The Pacers are reportedly expected to re-sign James Johnson to fill the roster spot that Ibaka’s release will open.