Clippers nab veteran center Serge Ibaka on Day 2 of NBA free agency

At the end of a quiet second day of NBA free agency, the Clippers made some noise.

That sound? Celebration. And maybe some relief.

According to several reports, Serge Ibaka made a deal with the Clippers on Saturday evening. The 7-footer is reportedly drawing $ 19 million for two years, with a player option for the second season. That deal is in line with what Montrezl Harrell reportedly agreed upon from the Lakers.

The Clippers reportedly competed for Ibaka with a few other determined suitors, in Brooklyn and Toronto, where he had played for the past three seasons. In LA, he will play behind Ivica Zubac and fill the gap Harrell left in the backup center, while also helping to replace some of the floor rack power lost with backup striker JaMychal Green, who agreed on Friday. with a two-year offer of $ 15 million. of the Nuggets.

And Ibaka will reunite with Kawhi Leonard, who he played with when the Toronto Raptors won their first NBA championship in 2019.

The Clippers now have 11 guaranteed contracts and are $ 3.4 million under the hard cap – with a few non-guaranteed contracts (Joakim Noah’s $ 2.7 million deal and recently Justin Patton’s $ 1.8 million) taking the charge could help reduce.

Ibaka, 31, is in his 12th NBA campaign. He is fresh off a season where he averaged 15.4 points and 8.2 rebounds in his career and shot 38.5 percent from the depth with 3.3 tries per game.

He was also big in the playoffs, when the second-placed Raptors lost to Boston in seven games in the semifinals of the Eastern Conference. Ibaka averaged 14.8 points and 7.7 rebounds in the Orlando bubble, while achieving 51.1 percent of his threes in the postseason.

While free agents flew off the board on Saturday and steadily stocked up on other teams’ rosters leading up to the fast approaching start of training camp on December 1, the Clippers typically remained mom. The only substantial hint of what they wanted to do came in the evening, when seasoned basketball writer Marc Stein of the New York Times tweeted what many Clippers fans already thought: “The Clippers have joined the race for freelancers Serge Ibaka and Marc Gasol. .

“Gasol,” Stein added, “is considered the more realistic target given the fierce competition for Ibaka led by Toronto and Brooklyn.”

But Ibaka chose the Clippers, who will reportedly pay him the non-taxpayer mid-level exception ($ 9.3 million) this season. Given that development and the team’s similarities with starting forward Marcus Morris Sr. for a four-year bid of $ 64 million, and Patrick Patterson, another backup attacker getting a one-year deal of $ 2.3, the Clippers still have their two-year ($ 3.6 million) trade exception ($ 3. 6 million) and minimum contracts for veterans to work with.

And they still have work to do.

The Clippers will have to add extra depth to the front, and it is still the matter of finding a suitable facilitator at the point guard, as ESPN’s Stephen A. Smith said in October that Kawhi Leonard has “argued privately”.

The Clippers were linked to Rajon Rondo, a key member of last season’s Lakers squad. But when the 14-year-old NBA veteran reportedly agreed on Saturday to sign a two-year deal with Atlanta, speculation shifted to Charlotte security guard Terry Rozier, who fueled the rumors by hints online about an impending move.

Not long after Gordon Hayward reportedly agreed on a four-year $ 120 million deal with the Hornets on Saturday, Rozier, 26, posted a video to Instagram where he rolled a suitcase to a van and said you’re ‘getting out of town shipped’. sometimes’ and ‘that’s the way it is sometimes’. And sharp-eyed NBA sleuths also noted that Rozier – who was mentioned Friday by Sports Illustrated’s Chris Mannix as a possible trade target for the Clippers – also liked a tweet that suggested he would fit into team culture.

The 6-foot-1, 190-pound former Louisville star bounced between point guard and shooting guard last season, his first as a full-time starter, averaging a career-high 18 points per game on 40.7 percent 3-point shooting . He is also entering the second season of a three-year $ 56.7 million off-season deal with the Hornets. So as of Saturday night, any movement of the Clippers to bring him on board remains a suspicion.

Their pursuit of Ibaka, on the other hand, goes down like a victory.