The Los Angeles Clippers are down 2-0 in their second-round series against the Utah Jazz, and things have now gone from bad to worse. On Friday, the team announced that veteran big man Serge Ibaka is out for the season after undergoing back surgery.
The team's press release:
LA Clippers center Serge Ibaka underwent back surgery in Los Angeles on Thursday, June 10 and is expected to make a full recovery. Ibaka will miss the remainder of the NBA post-season.
After three-plus seasons with the Toronto Raptors, Ibaka signed with the Clippers in free agency last offseason as one of the many changes the team made. Unfortunately, he hasn't had the type of impact the team was hoping for due to persistent back problems.
In an interview in May, Ibaka noted that he came into the season dealing with back pain, and had been playing through a pinched nerve for the first half of the season. Pain management only got him so far, however, and in March he had to shut things down. He missed 30 straight games, and didn't return until shortly before the end of the regular season.
His comeback was short-lived, as he played just the final two regular season games and the first two games of the Clippers' first-round series with the Dallas Mavericks before heading to the sidelines again. When he didn't even travel with the Clippers to Salt Lake City for the first two games of this series with the Jazz, it was a pretty good indication that he wasn't coming back any time soon.
Now, we know it won't be until sometime next season. Whether it will be with the Clippers remains to be seen, as Ibaka has a player option worth $9.7 million for the 2021-22 campaign. Coming off back surgery, it would make sense if he just took the guaranteed money and stuck around with a contender, but his plans at this point are unclear.