Serge Ibaka

Free Agent Stock Watch: Western Conference

Throughout the season, Hoops Rumors takes a closer look at players who will be free agents or could become free agents this offseason. We examine if their stock is rising or falling due to performance and other factors. With the playoffs in full swing, we take a look at players from the Western Conference:

Andre Drummond, Lakers, 27, C (Down) – Signed to a one-year, $794K deal in 2021

Drummond had a golden opportunity to show he could perform in the biggest moments. He was reportedly promised a starting spot by the Lakers after he reached a buyout agreement with Cleveland and cleared waivers. Drummond withered in the spotlight and was benched for Game 6 of the first-round series with Phoenix.

Coach Frank Vogel lavished praise on Drummond after the season, saying “We’re hopeful that he’s a Laker for a long time.” That seems like a long shot, considering how the postseason played out.

The two-time All-Star is still only 27 but his status has fallen dramatically over the past two seasons. He might be fortunate to receive the mid-level from a team seeking an elite rebounder.

Serge Ibaka, Clippers, 31, PF/C (Down) – Signed to a two-year, $19MM deal in 2020

Ibaka said last month he’s been dealing with back pain all season caused by a pinched nerve. It continued to hamper him to the point where he underwent back surgery on Thursday. He only appeared in 41 games during the regular season and had been limited to two postseason games.

Several contenders were interested in Ibaka during free agency last year due to his postseason track record. He was considered the Clippers’ most important addition during the offseason but now they’ll have to strive for a championship without one of their top frontcourt players. Ibaka holds a $9.72MM option on his contract for next season and it’s a safe bet he’ll take the guaranteed money.

Langston Galloway, Suns, 29, SG (Down) – Signed to a one-year, $2MM deal in 2020

Galloway signed a one-year contract for the veteran’s minimum to join an improving team seeking a second-unit shooter. He was Detroit’s top reserve a season ago but the opportunities haven’t been there in Phoenix. He only saw action in 40 games during the regular season and has made two cameos in the playoffs. The Suns have gone with a three-man rotation in the backcourt – Chris Paul, Devin Booker and Cameron Payne – rendering Galloway as a spectator. Galloway will likely have to settle for a similar contract next season from a team that promises to give him more playing time.

Tim Hardaway Jr., Mavericks, 29, SG (Up) – Signed to a four-year, $71MM deal in 2017

The Mavericks need to improve their supporting cast around Luka Doncic but they don’t want to lose Hardaway. Despite his Game 7 clunker (11 points, 1-for-9 on threes), Hardaway and Dorian Finney-Smith were the team’s most impactful players besides Doncic during the first-round series against the Clippers.

The Mavericks have made re-signing Hardaway a high priority. They’ll have some competition for his services and they to be cognizant of weighing down their future cap with enigmatic Kristaps Porzingis on the books for three more seasons (including a player option). But Hardaway is in a good spot to get another lucrative multiyear deal.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Serge Ibaka Undergoes Season-Ending Back Surgery

Clippers center Serge Ibaka underwent surgery to address his troublesome back injury on Thursday in Los Angeles, the club announced today in a press release.

The Clippers said in their statement that Ibaka is expected to make a full recovery, but he’ll miss the rest of the 2021 postseason, regardless of how far L.A. advances.

It’s a tough break for Ibaka and for the Clippers, who had been counting on the big man’s two-way versatility and championship experience to be valuable in the postseason. His back issues have been a persistent issues this year though.

Ibaka played two games late in the regular season after being sidelined for two months due to that injury. The 31-year-old admitted to the media just after the regular season ended that he’s been dealing with a nerve issue in his back all season and that it hasn’t fully healed.

Ibaka has a player option worth $9.7MM for 2021/22. If he were 100% healthy, he’d likely turn down that option in search of a raise, but in the wake of his surgery, picking it up looks like the safer play.

With Ibaka on the shelf, Ivica Zubac and DeMarcus Cousins should continue to see minutes at the five. However, Zubac and Cousins have only combined for about 24-25 minutes in each of the first two games vs. the Jazz, as head coach Tyronn Lue has used smaller, forward-heavy lineups without a true center.

Western Notes: Paul, Ibaka, Nuggets, Wolves, Nori

Executives that Chris Mannix of SI.com (Twitter link) has spoken to estimate that Suns guard Chris Paul could get a deal in the three-year, $60MM-ish range if he were to decline his $44MM player option this summer. A previous report, which stated that Paul would likely turn down that option, suggested that he’d likely be seeking a three-year contract worth about $100MM.

In actuality, Paul’s new deal could end up landing somewhere in between those two estimates. One possible route would be for him to pick up his $44MM option and negotiate a two-year extension with the Suns at a much lower rate. That would still allow the veteran point guard to secure a significant guarantee this offseason, while making him a little more affordable for Phoenix in a year or two when many of the team’s younger players are up for new deals.

Here’s more from around the West:

  • Initially listed as doubtful for Game 2, Clippers center Serge Ibaka has since been ruled out, tweets Andrew Greif of The Los Angeles Times. The big man, who missed most of the second half of the regular season due to back problems, returned briefly at the end of the season and start of the postseason, but hasn’t played since Game 2 of the Dallas series.
  • Nuggets head coach Michael Malone didn’t mince words in criticizing his team’s effort in a Game 2 loss vs. Phoenix on Wednesday, as Nick Friedell of ESPN details. Malone said Denver had “a lot of guys play really bad tonight” and said he felt the club “quit” in the second half. “I saw one team that wanted to be here, that played with a purpose and urgency, and one team that did not want to be here and played with no urgency,” Malone said. We’ll see how the Nuggets respond to Malone’s harsh assessment in Game 3 on Friday.
  • Darren Wolfson of 5 Eyewitness News (Twitter link) identifies Micah Nori as a name to watch as a potential addition to Chris Finch‘s Timberwolves coaching staff. Nori has spent the last few years with the Pistons on Dwane Casey‘s staff.

Pacific Notes: Collins, Ibaka, George, Caruso, Drummond

The Warriors and assistant coach Jarron Collins have mutually agreed to part ways with Collins setting his sights on a head coaching job, Marc J. Spears of ESPN reports. Head coach Steve Kerr indicated last week that there would be changes on his staff.

Collins, 42, joined the Warriors staff prior to the 2014/15 season as a player-development coach and was promoted to assistant coach the following season. He’s been in charge of the defense the last two seasons.

“For me, this is about taking the next journey and next step in my career,” he told Spears. Collins has interviewed for head coaching jobs with the Bulls, Grizzlies and Hawks in recent years.

We have more from the Pacific Division:

  • Serge Ibaka has been listed as doubtful to play in Game 1 against Utah on Tuesday and he didn’t even travel with the Clippers to Salt Lake City, Mark Medina of USA Today tweets. Ibaka, who has battled a back injury during the second half of the season, played only 19 minutes in the first round.
  • The Clippers needed seven games to get out of the first round and Paul George won’t mind doing the same against the Jazz as long as his team prevails, Mirjam Swanson of the Orange County Register writes. “It’s a marathon,” he said. “We’re not worried about how long it takes to get to what we want to get to. We’ve just got to get it done. We’ve got to be the best team in any seven-game series, that’s just what it comes down to. It’s not going to be easy, and I think (Dallas) did a great job of reiterating that, that this isn’t going to be easy.”
  • Re-signing Alex Caruso will be a high priority for the Lakers, according to Jovan Buha of The Athletic. The unrestricted free agent could receive a contract in the $12-$13MM per season range, Buha anticipates. It’s unlikely Andre Drummond will be back unless he accepts the veteran’s minimum or one of the team’s exceptions, in Buha’s estimation. The Athletic writer takes a look at all the team’s free agents in the story.

Western Notes: Doncic, K. Antetokounmpo, Ibaka, Warriors

Mavericks superstar Luka Doncic was available to play in Game 4 against the Clippers on Sunday night, as ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski first reported he would. Doncic suffered a strained neck in Game 3 and his status was uncertain at the time.

“It’s just weird,” Doncic said of his injury, which also caused some pain in his left arm. “Just some massage, some ice and hopefully it will be good.”

Doncic has played some of the best basketball of his career this series, averaging 38 points, 8.7 rebounds and nine assists through three games. He’s also shot 52% from the floor and 46% from behind-the-arc.

There’s more from the Western Conference tonight:

  • Lakers forward Kostas Antetokounmpo has been attending to a personal matter in Greece, explaining his recent absence from the team, according to Adrian Wojnarowski and Dave McMenamin of ESPN. Antetokoumpo is currently on a two-way contract with the club. There’s optimism that he could return if the Lakers advance past the Suns in the first round, the duo notes.
  • Clippers big man Serge Ibaka missed Game 4 due to lingering back soreness, as first reported by Wojnarowski (via Twitter). Ibaka has provided valuable production when healthy, averaging 11.1 points, 6.7 rebounds and 23.3 minutes in 41 games this season.
  • The Warriors still have a ways to go before returning to contention, says Moke Hamilton of Basketball News. Golden State played without Klay Thompson (torn Achilles’ rehab) this season, though Thompson is expected to return for 2021-22. The team would have its championship trio of Stephen Curry, Thompson, and Draymond Green to build around for the future.

Serge Ibaka Out For Game 3 With Back Pain

The Clippers, who already have their back to the walls, won’t have one of their top big men available against the Mavericks on Friday, Shams Charania of The Athletic tweets.

Serge Ibaka will sit out due to a lingering back issue. The Clippers lost the first two games of the series with Ibaka playing limited minutes. He only saw action for six minutes in Game 2 after a 13-minute stint in Game 1.

Ibaka played two games late in the regular season after being sidelined for two months due to his back injury. Ibaka admitted to the media just after the regular season he’s been dealing with a nerve issue in his back all season and it hasn’t fully healed.

Ibaka was one of the key signings the Clippers made after last season’s playoff flameout. Ibaka inked a two-year, $19MM contract that included a $9.72MM player option this summer.

Pacific Notes: Curry, LeBron, Walton, Ibaka

While Nikola Jokic is considered the odds-on favorite to win this season’s NBA MVP award, Lakers forward LeBron James has endorsed a division rival for the honor, telling reporters on Sunday night that Warriors guard Stephen Curry would get his vote.

“I mean, just look at what he’s done this year,” James said of the NBA’s leading scorer (link via Dave McMenamin of ESPN). “I don’t know anything else if you’re looking for an MVP. If Steph is not on Golden State’s team, what are we looking at? … We get caught up in the records sometimes. We get caught up in the, ‘OK, who has the best record?’ instead of just saying who had the best season that year. And Steph has had, in my opinion, the best season all year.”

Curry has won two MVP awards, but his performance this season may have been his most impressive yet, considering the Warriors didn’t have high-scoring options like Klay Thompson and Kevin Durant available to draw attention away from him. Despite facing double-teams and traps for much of the season, Curry averaged a career-best 32.0 points per game on .482/.421/.916 shooting in 63 games (34.2 MPG). His 5.3 three-pointers per game also represented a new career high.

Here’s more from around the Pacific:

  • Bill Shea of The Athletic explores what life after basketball might look like for LeBron James, who will turn 37 later this year. The Lakers star, who has already ventured into the media and business worlds during his playing career, also aims to one day own an NBA franchise.
  • After expressing last week that he was “very confident” about keeping his job as the Kings‘ head coach, Luke Walton explained on Sunday why he’s not worried, as Jason Anderson of The Sacramento Bee relays. “It doesn’t weigh on me because it’s the same thing I always talk about — it’s control what you can control — the same message I give my players every day,” Walton said. He added that he felt the story of Sacramento’s season should be the growth of the team’s young players. “I’m excited about this group and excited about our future,” the Kings’ coach said.
  • Having returned on Friday after missing two months due to a back injury, Clippers big man Serge Ibaka told reporters that he has played with back pain since the start of the season, per Ohm Youngmisuk of ESPN (Twitter link). It’s a nerve issue, according to Ibaka, who admitted he’s still not back to 100%.

Injury Updates: Ibaka, Beal, Conley, Dozier, Barton

Serge Ibaka hasn’t played since March 14 due to a back injury but the Clippers’ big man could be in uniform on Friday. He’s been upgraded to questionable, Andrew Greif of the Los Angeles Times tweets. Ibaka has averaged 10.9 PPG and 6.7 RPG in his first season with the Clippers and could be a pivotal player in the postseason.

We have more news on the injury front:

  • Wizards All-Star Bradley Beal won’t play against Cleveland on Friday due to a hamstring injury, the team tweets. The league’s second-leading scorer hasn’t played since last Saturday. Washington can clinch a spot in the play-in tournament with a victory tonight.
  • Jazz All-Star guard Mike Conley told the media he’ll play the final two games of the regular season, including tonight’s tilt against the Thunder, Eric Walden of the Salt Lake Tribune writes. He’s been out since April 26 due to a right hamstring strain.
  • The Nuggets’ Will Barton (hamstring) and PJ Dozier (right adductor) are not expected to return before the playoffs, coach Michael Malone told Mike Singer of the Denver Post (Twitter link). Barton, who has been out since April 23, is closer to returning than Dozier.

Pacific Notes: Haliburton, T. Davis, A. Davis, LeBron, Ibaka

Injuries limited Tyrese Haliburton to 58 games during his rookie season, but he still looks like a major steal in last year’s draft, writes James Ham of NBC Sports California. The Iowa State guard slid all the way to the 12th pick on draft night, delighting the Kings, who had been hoping to get their hands on him.

“We had even been trying to move up and secure him,” general manager Monte McNair said in a recent TV interview. “When he ultimately fell to No. 12, obviously you never know how it will turn out, but in that moment, we were extremely excited. … I think we may have made a record-setting quick call to the league to lock that pick in. Like I said, he’s even exceeded those expectations and we had very high expectations of him through all of our draft prep and everything.”

Haliburton made a strong case for a spot on the All-Rookie team, averaging 13.0 points, 5.3 assists, 3.0 rebounds and 1.3 steals per game. A hyperextended left knee ended his season early, but Ham states that the Kings are confident he’ll be ready for a full summer program with the team in preparation for next season.

There’s more from the Pacific Division:

  • Terence Davis had a short stay in Toronto, but it sounds like he wants to be with the Kings a lot longer, notes Jason Jones of The Athletic. The Raptors traded Davis to Sacramento in March, and he likes his new situation enough that he’s leaning toward re-signing when he becomes a restricted free agent this summer. “It’s definitely looking like that,” Davis said. “It’s looking really good for me. I would say this is some of the best basketball I’ve played in my career, even in college, this is a stretch of some of the best games I’ve played in my entire life.”
  • The Lakers continue to be careful with their stars as the season winds down. According to an ESPN storyAnthony Davis will sit out tonight against the Rockets after experiencing tightness in his left adductor during Tuesday’s game. He will join LeBron James, who announced earlier today that he will delay his return until at least Saturday. James visited an ankle specialist last week, sources told ESPN, and was able to practice Monday without having difficulty with making sharp cuts and jumping.
  • Serge Ibaka has already been listed as out for Thursday’s game, but the Clippers remain hopeful he can return before the regular season ends Sunday, writes Mirjam Swanson of The Orange County Register. Ibaka, who has missed the past 29 games with lower back tightness, is traveling with the team on its current road trip.

Pacific Notes: Ibaka, Kuzma, Fox, Lee

Serge Ibaka has joined the Clippers on their road trip, leaving open the possibility he will play before the postseason, Ohm Youngmisuk of ESPN tweets. However, Ibaka won’t play against Toronto on Tuesday, Andrew Greif of the Los Angeles Times tweets. The veteran center, who holds a $9.72MM option on next season’s contract, hasn’t played since March 14 due to a back injury.

We have more from the Pacific Division:

  • Kyle Kuzma was held out of Sunday’s game due to lower back tightness, Chris Haynes of Yahoo Sports tweets. Kuzma, who signed a three-year, $39MM extension in December, shot 2-for-11 from the field on Friday in a loss to Portland. The Lakers forward is averaging 12.8 PPG.
  • Kings guard De’Aaron Fox would like to see the team’s front office exercise some patience, he told Howard Beck of Sports Illustrated. He’s weary of the constant tinkering of the roster. “If you’re not winning as a team, guys get traded, guys who were barely hanging on … get cut and are out the league and coaches get fired,” Fox said, while adding that the top teams have “players play together longer and develop chemistry, and coaches continue to grow and trust all their players.” Fox also spoke in the interview about his recent experience with COVID-19.
  • Warriors guard Damion Lee got up some shots on the court Monday for the first time since clearing the league’s health and safety protocols, Kendra Andrews of NBC Sports Bay Area tweets. Coach Steve Kerr said he’s unsure when Lee will return to game action. Lee contracted COVID-19 even after he had been fully vaccinated.