The Clippers will be without one of their top frontcourt players for the rest of the 2021 NBA playoffs.
Los Angeles announced Friday that Serge Ibaka underwent back surgery and will miss the remainder of the postseason. Ibaka sat out 30 straight regular-season games with back issues before returning for the Clippers’ final two contests. He played in Games 1 and 2 of the team’s first-round series against the Mavericks but was sidelined for the next seven playoff games before the Clippers officially shut him down.
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“There is nothing I would love more than being on the court helping my brothers and trying to win a championship for #ClipperNation,” Ibaka wrote in an Instagram post. “It’s been a very tough season, I worked very hard to be back in time for the Playoffs but sometimes injuries get in the way and health has to be a priority.
“I appreciate all the love and support from everyone and now I have my mindset on supporting my team and getting healthy and ready for next season.”
After signing a two-year, $19 million contract with the Clippers in free agency last year, Ibaka stepped into LA’s starting lineup and averaged 11.1 points and 6.7 rebounds per game. The 31-year-old was expected to be a key part of Tyronn Lue’s rotation because of his ability to stretch the floor on offense while providing size and rim protection on the defensive end. But as Ibaka noted last month, he dealt with back pain all season long, limiting his playing time and effectiveness.
Ibaka could return to the Clippers next season if he picks up his $9.7 million player option for the 2021-22 season, or he could jump back into free agency this summer.