The Clippers will be without one of their best players from the front zone for the remainder of the 2021 NBA playoffs.
Los Angeles announced Friday that Serge Ibaka underwent back surgery and will miss the rest of the postseason. Ibaka missed 30 straight regular-season games with back problems before returning for the Clippers’ last two games. He played in Games 1 and 2 of the team’s first-round series against the Mavericks, but was out of the game for the next seven playoff games before the Clippers officially shut it 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 has been a very difficult 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 the mindset to support my team and be healthy and ready for the next season.”
After signing a two-year, $ 19 million deal with the Clippers in free agency last year, Ibaka entered Los Angeles’ 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 due to his ability to stretch the court on offense while providing rim size and protection on the defensive side. But as Ibaka pointed out last month, he deals with back pain throughout the season, limiting his playing time and effectiveness.
Ibaka could return to the Clippers next season if he chooses his $ 9.7 million player option for the 2021-22 season, or he could return to free agency this summer.