Serge Ibaka

Atlantic Notes: Ibaka, Raptors, Knicks

When the Raptors return from the All-Star Break they won’t have long to incorporate newly acquired Serge Ibaka into their lineup. Team leaders DeMar DeRozan and Kyle Lowry are well aware of the fact that they’ll have to hit the ground running, writes Jeff Zillgitt of USA Today.

With a veteran like Serge who understands fitting in and everything about the league, I don’t think it should take long,” Raptors guard DeRozan said. “It’s on us to hop out the gate and take advantage. […] It’s given us a jolt.”

The Raptors currently sit fourth in the Eastern Conference with a 33-24 record but a recent slide has pushed the club out of the No. 2 spot that they occupied for the first few months of the season. The decision to ship core guard Terrence Ross to the Magic in exchange for Ibaka raises the stakes for the franchise.

We ain’t got time. You know that,” Lowry said. The Raptors return to action Friday.

There’s more out of the Atlantic Division:

Hoops Links: Lowry, Embiid, Antetokounmpo, Porzingis, Nicholson

On Sundays, we link to some of the very best work from around the basketball blogosphere. Do you have a link to a great basketball blog post – either your own or someone else’s – that you want to see featured on Hoops Rumors? Send it to us at HoopsLinks@gmail.com. Here’s this week’s rundown:

Atlantic Notes: Jackson, Okafor, Atkinson, Ibaka, Porzingis

Knicks legend Willis Reed had an interesting take on the team’s leadership woes. The Hall of Famer suggested Phil Jackson take the helm as head coach, replacing Jeff Hornacek. 

“Unfortunately for us as Knicks fans, if Phil Jackson had been coaching all year, we would’ve won more games,’’ Reed told Marc Berman of The New York Post. “His toughness and ability to make guys concentrate, that’s what I loved about him as a coach. He got guys to play harder and smarter…He’s got a history with Kobe, Jordan and Shaquille and made them champions.”

Reed was critical of Jackson’s inability to find a suitable head coach during his run as Knicks president, citing Mike Woodson, Derek Fisher, Kurt Rambis, and Hornacek as disappointments. Jackson’s most recent season as a head coach came with the Lakers in 2010/11, in which L.A. finished with a 57-25 record.

More from the Atlantic…

  • Kevin Pelton of ESPN discussed Jahlil Okafor in a recent mailbag, calling the Pelicans the best fit for the former #3 overall pick. In the event that Okafor isn’t traded at the deadline, however, Pelton named the Bucks as a potential landing spot over the offseason. Milwaukee big man Greg Monroe may opt out of his contract, making Okafor a logical candidate to slide into his role.
  • Brian Lewis of the New York Post handed out individual grades to the 9-47 Nets. Kenny Atkinson received a B-, as the rookie head coach has done a good job of keeping his players focused despite their gaudy record. GM Sean Marks was given a C+, largely due to his inability to capitalize on Yogi Ferrell‘s potential, and wasting $4MM on Greivis Vasquez.
  • Warriors coach Steve Kerr gave props to the Celtics, saying Brad Stevens‘ squad is well-positioned for the future. “Because of the young talent, because of the coach [Brad Stevens] and because of the draft picks that they have coming up. They could end up with the number one pick in the draft, which is remarkable,” Kerr said. “Boston’s in a great place. I have a lot of respect for Brad and Danny [Ainge, Boston’s president of basketball operations] for what they’ve done and obviously, Isaiah Thomas. They’ve been a great story this year.”
  • According to Steve Kyler of Basketball Insiders, the Raptors received assurances that Serge Ibaka would re-sign after the season. Ibaka, who has yet to make his team debut, will be expected to help lift Toronto out of their recent funk- entering the All-Star break having dropped six of their last 10. As Eric Pincus of Basketball Insiders points out, if Toronto doesn’t retain Ibaka over the offseason, their cap space can expand to $21.2MM.
  • Kristaps Porzingis has struggled to get on the same page as Derrick Rose, Marc Berman of the New York Post writes. “We’re still trying to find that connection between us, where we know exactly where the guy’s going to be,’’ Porzingis said. “We have to get a really good feel for each other. That doesn’t happen overnight. We’re still trying to work on that.’’ An anonymous NBA source added fuel to the fire, observing “I don’t think Derrick is helping Porzingis’s growth, with his head down going to the basket, not really looking for him.’’

Celtics May Pursue Danilo Gallinari

The Celtics may try to pick up Nuggets forward Danilo Gallinari before Thursday’s trade deadline, writes Steve Bulpett of The Boston Herald.

Boston GM Danny Ainge has long been a fan of Gallinari, according to Bulpett, and has tried to deal for him before. There haven’t been any trade rumors linking the Celtics and Gallinari this year, but the author notes that was also true with Isaiah Thomas before Ainge dealt for him two years ago.

Gallinari has been slowed by a groin injury and hasn’t played since February 1st. He has a player option worth $16.1MM next season.

Boston is hoping to add another scorer through trade, and Ainge has been active in talks during All-Star Weekend, both as a main participant and a facilitator, according to Bulpett. So far, Ainge hasn’t found a deal worth giving up his most valuable assets, which include the Nets’ first-rounders this season and in 2018.

“Danny’s let it be known that he’s willing to talk about the Nets’ picks,” said an unidentified executive. “But you want one of those guys, you have to be willing to give up a star.”

Ainge would also prefer to stay away from players whose contracts expire this year or next year. The Celtics had some interest in Serge Ibaka before Orlando traded him to Toronto, but they weren’t willing to part with much because they weren’t sure they could re-sign him in free agency.

Bulpett adds that the Celtics are very protective of their cap space and are reluctant to make a move that would hurt them on the free agent market. He speculates that it would take someone like Jimmy Butler or Paul George to tempt Boston to add significant salary in a pre-deadline trade.

The Celtics are also significantly less interested in trading for Jahlil Okafor than they were a year ago, Bulpett notes. They had talked to the Sixers about an Okafor deal at last year’s deadline, but after signing Al Horford the Celtics only want front-line players who they believe are compatible with him. Boston might have more interest in Philadelphia’s Nerlens Noel, but the team won’t offer as much as it would have in 2016.

The author believes the Celtics would love to pick up Andrew Bogut from Dallas if the Mavericks decide to be sellers, but again wouldn’t pay a high price in a deal.

Southeast Notes: Battier, Beal, Ibaka, Ross, Mahinmi

Ira Winderman of the Sun Sentinel wondered if Shane Battier, recently hired as the Heat‘s Director of Basketball Development and Analytics, will eventually assume leadership of the franchise from Pat Riley. For the interim, Winderman writes, Battier’s position will be the “first step” toward a post-Riley front office. Battier will work alongside Andy Elisburg and Nick Arison, executives with an advanced “business-of-basketball” acumen. While there is no reason to believe Riley is ready to step away from the game, Winderman could see Riley moving into a role similar to Jerry West’s with the Lakers; an executive board member who isn’t accountable for mundane, day-to-day front office operations.

More from around the Southeast…

  • Jared Dudley of the Suns stuck up for his former teammate, claiming Bradley Beal was snubbed of an All-Star roster spot. “The @NBA tells us players that winning matters! Wizards are the hottest team in the NBA! Bradley Beal is healthy and balling!”, Dudley tweeted on Thursday. (Twitter link) Keely Diven of CSN Mid-Atlantic argued that Carmelo Anthony received the All-Star nod due to his ability to attract media attention. Jeff Zillgitt of USA Today gave further insight to ‘Melo’s selection, noting that Anthony received more votes from coaches than Beal.
  • Steve Kyler of Basketball Insiders described it as “a little obvious” that Serge Ibaka did not bond with his teammates in Orlando. Ibaka, who was dealt to Toronto on February 14, didn’t mesh with the playing styles of Orlando’s younger players (Twitter link). By Kyler’s account, it seems that Ibaka’s teammates “had real issues” with the 27-year-old, and welcomed a change.
  • Terrence Ross told Cody Taylor of Basketball Insiders that he embraced the “fresh start” in Orlando. “I was kind of aware that something could have been happening before the deadline so it wasn’t too shocking,” Ross said. “At the same time, being drafted to a team and playing for one team, it’s a little different, but I’m enjoying the process. It’s a good opportunity. It’s a new fresh start for me and I’m looking forward to it. I just kind of hope we can bring some of that experience I got in Toronto and bring it here, and really just helping wherever I can.” Ross, who has averaged 10.4 points through 54 games in 2016/17, is in the first season of a three-year, $31.5MM contract.
  • Jason Smith will likely see a dip in minutes as the Wizards ease Ian Mahinmi into the lineup, Candace Buckner of the Washington Post writes. Smith, who has averaged 7.8 points with 4.8 rebounds over his last six games, has been a serviceable back-up to starter Marcin Gortat“What he’s [Smith] done the last two or three months is what he’s done his entire career and he’s been terrific,” said Coach Scott Brooks. “But if you have a good team, everybody’s going to have to sacrifice. It’s not just Jason, starters are going to have to sacrifice.”

Celtics Rumors: Ainge, Smart, Bradley, Ibaka

Celtics GM Danny Ainge is not interested in a quick-fix deal and is driving a hard bargain when it comes to his best trade assets, he said during a radio interview posted by CSNNE.com. Ainge doesn’t want any “band aids” for the final 25 regular-season games. “We’re trying to build something that’s a little more sustainable than we are to rent a player,” he said. The Celtics have the ability to dangle some tantalizing draft picks, as well as young players, to acquire the “long-term” impact player that he’s seeking. Boston has the right to swap first-rounders with the Nets this season and also owns Brooklyn’s 2018 first-rounder. Ainge says “there’s a lot of interest in” the Nets pick, though he didn’t clarify whether he was referring to one or both. “Everybody knows the assets we have and the young players we have, so that’s the challenge,” he said. “In any conversation we have, the price is a lot because of what we have in the bank.”

In other notable developments regarding the Celtics:

  • Combo guard Marcus Smart‘s strong play has made Avery Bradley expendable, Mike Petraglia of WEEI.com argues. Smart has averaged 12.3 PPG, 5.4 APG, 4.0 RPG and 2.3 SPG over the past 12 games and the team has gone 11-1 during that stretch, Petraglia notes. Bradley, sidelined the last 15 games with a sore right Achilles, has one more year left on his very affordable four-year, $32MM deal and could be packaged with draft picks to land an All-Star caliber player like Jimmy Butler, DeMarcus Cousins, Carmelo Anthony or Andre Drummond, Petraglia adds.
  • Bradley believes he’ll be ready to go right after the All-Star break, as he told Chris Forsberg of ESPN.com and other reporters. “I’m feeling really good. I wish I could be back now, but I just have to do whatever is smartest at the moment,” Bradley said. “The medical staff thinks it’s smarter for me to just wait until after the All-Star break.”
  • The team did not make a push for power forward Serge Ibaka last summer because they had no interest in signing him to a long-term deal, a source told Kyle Draper of CSNNE.com. Boston did not want to get into a bidding war for Ibaka, who will be an unrestricted free agent this summer. Ibaka was shipped by the Thunder to the Magic in a draft-night blockbuster, and then moved by the struggling Magic this week to another Eastern Conference contender, the Raptors.

Florida Notes: Ibaka, Ross, Wade, Riley

The Magic are viewing last summer’s trade for Serge Ibaka as a “calculated risk” that didn’t work out, relays Steve Kyler of Basketball Insiders. To obtain the veteran power forward, Orlando sent Victor Oladipo and Ersan Ilyasova to Oklahoma City, along with the 11th pick in the 2016 draft, which became Domantas Sabonis. Less than a year later, the Magic shipped Ibaka to the Raptors in exchange for Terrence Ross and a pick that will fall toward the end of the first round. Ibaka played 56 games for the Magic, averaging 15.1 points and 6.8 rebounds per night, but the team was just 21-36 with him on the roster.

“I think if you go back in time, you look at what was needed for us in the frontcourt and some of the voids we thought we had on the roster,” explained GM Rob Hennigan. “Then, you balance that with the logjam we had at the two guard at the time with Evan [Fournier] and Victor, we felt like it made sense. Sometimes you have to take a few shots down the field. Sometimes it pans out; sometimes it won’t. I applaud our aggressiveness. I think given the same situation, circumstantially, we would make the same trade. Sometimes, things don’t work out as you plan. I think it’s important to be proactive in trying to rectify that too.”

There’s more NBA news from the Sunshine State:

  • Ross was inactive for tonight’s game, according to a tweet from the Magic. The team wasn’t notified before game time that both players passed their physicals and the deal was finalized, according to Josh Robbins of The Orlando Sentinel (Twitter link).
  • The Heat had been tied to Ibaka in trade rumors, but weren’t interested in trying to top Toronto’s offer, writes Ira Winderman of The Sun Sentinel. They were reluctant to give up much for a player who will be a free agent after the season and who may be older than his listed age of 27. Also, Miami wasn’t able to offer a first-round pick this year because its 2018 first-rounder may be shipped to Phoenix. Winderman notes that Tyler Johnson can block any trade until July and that most of the roster wouldn’t have enticed the Magic. The writer believes Josh Richardson would have been Miami’s best offer.
  • A call from Heat president Pat Riley might have convinced Dwyane Wade to stay in Miami, the Bulls star says in a podcast with Adrian Wojnarowski of The Vertical. Wade opted to sign with Chicago last summer after negotiations with the Heat stalled. “I love Pat and I know he loves me,” Wade said. “The fact that we didn’t talk, that hurt. That was my deciding factor when it came down to the end of the day and he didn’t show he wanted me there. I know the Arison family loved me and wanted me there. I know Spo [coach Erik Spoelstra] wanted me there.”

Raptors Notes: Ibaka, Ujiri, Biyombo, Powell

Power forward Serge Ibaka, who was acquired Tuesday in a trade with the Magic, won’t be making his Raptors debut tonight, the team announced (Twitter link). Ibaka passed his physical and was available for the game, but Michael Grange of Rogers SportsNet tweets that Toronto coach Dwane Casey decided to hold him out after today’s walkthrough, citing a hectic past 36 hours. Ibaka’s first game in a Raptors uniform will take place after the All-Star break on February 24th.

There’s more news out of Toronto:

  • The Ibaka deal raises the stakes for the Raptors, Grange writes in a full story. Ibaka fills an obvious need for Toronto and immediately becomes the organization’s most experienced postseason player. Grange calls it a risk-free trade and notes that Pascal Siakam, Jakob Poeltl and Lucas Nogueira have made most of the starts at power forward this season after having a combined seven career starts coming into this year. “I think our team needed a boost, to be honest,” said team president Masai Ujiri“and we’re at that point where I think everybody knows, it’s not rocket science, that [a starting power forward] was a missing link on our team.”
  • Ibaka said he heard great things about Toronto from former Magic teammate Bismack Biyombo long before the trade took place, relays Josh Lewenburg of TSN Sports (Twitter link). Biyombo spent last season with the Raptors before signing with Orlando in July. “He always told me stories,” Ibaka said. “… He loves it here.”
  • Second-year shooting guard Norman Powell can expect more playing time with Ross gone, according to Lewenburg (Twitter link). However, Casey wants Powell to concentrate more on defense and less on shooting than Ross did. Powell is averaging about 17 minutes and 7.2 points through 52 games.

Kennedy’s Latest: Suns, Collison, Thunder, Pacers

The Suns would like to package their young players and draft picks in order to bring a star to Phoenix, Alex Kennedy of HoopsHype writes. Executives around the league tell Kennedy that they expect the Suns to continue their rebuild and trade away some of their veterans should they not be able to land a star player.

Here’s more from Kennedy’s piece:

  • The Kings have made several players available, including Darren Collison. The point guard, who will be a free agent after the season, has seen an expanded role on the team since Rudy Gay injured his Achilles, as I wrote in this week’s Fantasy Hoops.
  • It’s unclear whether the Thunder will be buyers or sellers at the deadline, but they are expected to be active. “They will do something, one way or the other. They won’t stand pat,” one anonymous GM told Kennedy.
  • The Pacers are willing to trade anyone on the roster with the exception being Paul George, Kennedy reports.
  • The Carmelo Anthony-to-Cleveland trade talks were “overblown,” Kennedy adds. The Cavs are still looking for outside help, as they are reportedly in trade discussions with several teams.
  • Anthony Davis isn’t going anywhere and Jrue Holiday is unlikely to be traded, but anyone else on the Pelicans‘ roster is on the table in trade talks, according to Kennedy.
  • Serge Ibaka was traded to the Raptors earlier today and a source tells Kennedy that Toronto was his preferred destination.

Magic Trade Serge Ibaka To Raptors

4:50pm: The Magic and Raptors have each confirmed the trade as reported, making it official (Twitter links).

10:13am: The Magic and Raptors have agreed to a trade that will send Serge Ibaka to Toronto, reports Adrian Wojnarowski of The Vertical. According to Wojnarowski, the Magic will receive Terrence Ross and a 2017 first-round pick in the swap.SergeIbaka vertical

The Raptors hold a pair of first-round picks for 2017, having acquired the Clippers’ lottery-protected first-rounder in addition to their own. According to Wojnarowski (via Twitter), Orlando will get the less favorable of those two selections. As our 2016/17 Reverse Standings show, the Raptors’ pick currently projects to land at No. 20 or 21, while the Clippers’ pick would be No. 25, though the standings remain tight.

For the Magic, it’s essentially an admission that last summer’s Ibaka trade was a misstep. At the time, Orlando parted with a package of Victor Oladipo, Ersan Ilyasova, and a lottery pick (Domantas Sabonis) for the Oklahoma City big man. Ibaka’s value has declined a little as his contract nears its end, but a package of Ross and a late first-rounder still pales in comparison to what the Magic initially gave up for the 27-year-old.

[RELATED: Magic GM Acknowledges Criticism Is ‘Warranted’]

Still, last summer’s trade was a sunk cost for GM Rob Hennigan, who had vowed to be “aggressive” in pursuing trades this month. Reports had indicated Ibaka was unlikely to re-sign with Orlando this offseason, so the Magic were at least able to add a pair of assets that will help the team beyond 2016/17. Ross is under contract at a rate of $10.5MM annually for two years beyond this season, while the player drafted with Orlando’s newly-acquired 2017 first-rounder will be under team control through at least 2020/21. Hennigan will likely continue to be active on the trade market leading up to next Thursday’s deadline.

The Magic are also able to create a modest trade exception worth $2.25MM in the deal. That’s the difference between the 2016/17 salaries for Ibaka ($12.25MM) and Ross ($10MM). That trade exception will expire one year from now.

From the Raptors’ perspective, the deal will give them the stretch four they have long coveted. Although the team has been linked to several other power forwards – including Paul Millsap, Danilo Gallinari, and Taj Gibson – Ibaka’s name has perhaps been the one most frequently connected to Toronto in trade rumors. The Raps reportedly tried to acquire Ibaka during the 2016 draft, offering up their own lottery pick in a package, but were unable to match the Magic’s offer at the time.

Although Ibaka will be a free agent this summer, the Raptors now hold his Bird rights and have every intention of trying to re-sign him, tweets Wojnarowski. With Ibaka and Kyle Lowry both in line for lucrative new long-term deals in free agency in July, it will be interesting to see if Toronto moves another contract or two off its books in order to avoid going deep into luxury tax territory. It’s also worth noting that Ibaka and Lowry share an agent in ASM’s Andy Miller.

In the shorter term, Ibaka will join a Raptors frontcourt that features Valanciunas, Patrick Patterson, and Lucas Nogueira, while Norman Powell will be the top candidate to assume a good chunk of Ross’ minutes. In addition to providing some of the rim protection and rebounding that the team lost when Bismack Biyombo departed in free agency, Ibaka will also give Toronto an outside threat on offense.

Although he didn’t shoot much from beyond the arc earlier in his career, Ibaka has developed into a reliable option from outside, making a career-high 38.8% of his long-distance attempts this season. He’s also averaging a career-high 15.1 PPG to go along with 6.8 RPG and 1.6 BPG.

The timing of the move is good for the Raptors, who have been slumping so far in 2017. After posting a losing record in January, the team is just 2-4 so far in February, and will look to regain ground on the Cavaliers, as well as the surging Celtics and Wizards.

Before the Magic and Raptors struck a deal, Ibaka was believed to be drawing interest from the Heat, among other teams. According to ESPN’s Zach Lowe (Twitter link), other offers for Ibaka were believed to be “shockingly weak,” with the big man’s impending free agency limiting his trade value.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

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