Serge Ibaka is joining the Los Angeles Clippers, according to reports overnight Saturday.
The popular Raptors big man has signed a two-year contract worth US$19-million with a player option in the second season to play in LA, according to reports from The Athletic and ESPN.
The 31-year-old joined the Raptors via a trade from the Orlando Magic back in 2017, in return for Terrence Ross and a first-round draft choice. Over those seasons, Ibaka became an integral part of Toronto’s rotation and was a key cog in its run to the 2019 NBA title.
This tempers the news earlier Saturday that the Raptors had successfully agreed to a deal to re-sign Fred VanVleet to a new four-year US$85-million deal. Ibaka’s departure leaves the Raptors with no viable centre under contract at the moment, as the team still works to bring back starting seven-footer Marc Gasol.
In Los Angeles, Ibaka reunites with Kawhi Leonard.
Ibaka evolved into a fan favourite during his time in Toronto, stemming from his incredible journey - from Republic of Congo all the way to the NBA. When he took the NBA trophy back to Africa in the summer of 2019, one of his stops was a restaurant in Brazzaville outside which he used to beg as a hungry boy, the third youngest in a family of 18 kids.
He became beloved for his uniquely artistic personality during his four seasons in Toronto. His YouTube cooking show How Hungry Are You? became a viral hit among basketball fans, as he interviewed high-profile guests and cooked bizarre delicacies for them to reluctantly taste-test.
The fashion-fascinated Ibaka then added another show - Avec Classe - which invited his teammates into a high-end Toronto men’s clothier so he could make over their sense of style. His show provided one of the team’s catch-phrases of the season when he and OG Anunoby argued about which of the two of them first started wearing scarves: “What about scarves?”
The clever Ibaka even entertained fans with video hits as he quarantined in his Toronto apartment during the NBA shutdown, dubbed How Bored Are You?.
Ibaka averaged 15.4 points and 8.2 rebounds per game for the Raptors last season.
The Raptors will start training camp Dec. 1 for an NBA season that is slated to start Dec. 22. They will begin their season playing home games in Tampa due to the continuing pandemic.