Ibaka com­ing to change things up for Rap­tors

The Hamilton Spectator - - SPORTS - LORI EWING TORONTO —

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.

CHARLES REX ARBOGAST, THE AS­SO­CI­ATED PRESS

Chicago’s Jimmy But­ler scores past Rap­tors’ Jonas Valan­ci­u­nas Tues­day in Chicago. The Rap­tors lost 105-94.

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