Ibaka coming to change things up for Raptors
The Toronto Raptors were cartwheeling down the Eastern Conference standings, and a sense of unease had seeped into the dressing room.
But team president Masai Ujiri made a big splash Tuesday by reeling in Serge Ibaka from the Orlando Magic, acquiring a player he’s long coveted and filling a void at the power forward position. The Raptors gave up Terrence Ross and a first-round pick in the 2017 draft in exchange for a pivotal big man they hope can catapult them in the right direction.
Ibaka was not in the lineup in Tuesday’s 105-94 loss to Chicago.
“He’s definitely one of a kind when it comes to rim protection, being able to score in the post, and also space the floor as well,” Raptors guard DeMar DeRozan said at the team’s morning shootaround in Chicago. “Sucks to see (Terrence) go, but now we’ve got to make this new adjustment with a great new addition.”
Ross later posted on Twitter: “Toronto thank you for all the memories, thanks to the amazing fans. Couldn’t of been drafted to a better city. Thanks to to my team. All luv.”
The move came with the Raptors mired in their worst slump in two seasons. Entering Tuesday night’s game against the Bulls, the Raptors have dropped 10 of their last 14 games to slip from second to fifth in the Eastern Conference standings.
A 102-101 loss to Detroit last Sunday prompted all-star guard Kyle Lowry to say in a funereal postgame dressing room: “Something’s got to give, something’s got to change.”
In Ibaka, a chiselled six-foot-10 power forward, the Raptors get a versatile player who can knock down shots and provide a huge presence in the paint.
“I think he’s a great addition to any team and especially to ours where we can add some shotblocking, some outside shooting, some inside toughness, some athleticism, running up and down the floor,” Lowry said in Chicago.
What’s the biggest need the new big man fills?
“It’s kind of hard to pick one,” Lowry said. “We can use the shooting, we can use the toughness, we can use the floor running, we can use the shot-blocking, we can use all that.”
Selected 24th overall by Seattle in the 2008 draft, Ibaka played seven seasons alongside Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook in Oklahoma City before being acquired by the Magic last summer. Ibaka should provide a big boost to Toronto’s defence — the Raptors rank 17th in the NBA in defensive efficiency.
Ibaka was born in the Democratic Republic of Congo, but represents Spain in international basketball. He’s the third youngest of 18 kids.
Chicago’s Jimmy Butler scores past Raptors’ Jonas Valanciunas Tuesday in Chicago. The Raptors lost 105-94.