According to a report from Sportsnet, Serge Ibaka left the Toronto Raptors because he was unhappy that the team wanted to keep playing him behind Marc Gasol.
After seemingly going through a decline a few years ago, Serge Ibaka has seen a resurgent in the past two seasons playing on the Toronto Raptors. Due to his waning athletic abilities, the veteran big man had to re-establish himself as a reliable defender and threat from beyond the arc, which made him a very valuable player, particularly during the Raptors’ championship run in 2018-19.
As a well-run organization, the Raptors were fully aware of Ibaka’s importance on the team when he came up for free agency before this season. Per a report from Michael Grange of Sportsnet, Toronto offered him one-year deals between $12-14 million, but Ibaka decided to sign with the Los Angeles Clippers instead, earning a two-year contract worth $19 million in total.
According to Grange, the Raptors’ offers were lower than he expected, but the main point of contention came from Toronto’s pursuit of Marc Gasol. The team wanted to leave some money available to bring back the Spaniard, which drove Ibaka away since he disliked playing behind Gasol. Ironically, Gasol left as well, for the Lakers bringing the personal rivalry to Los Angeles after Ibaka signed with the Clippers.
The Raptors have struggled this season without Serge Ibaka
After playing at a 60-win pace last year, Toronto has struggled mightily to begin the 2020-21 campaign. The team is currently 1-6 and sits 14th in the Eastern Conference, a far cry from their second-place finish last season.
Although the Raptors brought back most of their players, it seems like they’ve sorely missing Ibaka’s versatility at both ends of the court. Aron Baynes, who was brought in as a replacement, is currently shooting less than 20 percent from beyond the arc. Meanwhile, Ibaka has converted on 35 percent of his 3s this season with the Clippers.
With that said, the Raptors are too talented and too well-coached to continue struggling at this rate, and they should still be able to compete for a playoff spot when the time comes.