Serge Ibaka has revealed publicly that he never asked to be traded by the Oklahoma City this summer, despite the team moving him to the Orlando Magic on NBA Draft night in June.
In a column written for The Cauldron earlier this week, Ibaka stated he would have been happy staying with the Thunder and that the trade came as a shock to him as he thought the rumours were ‘nothing of substance’.
He writes, ‘I was so confident, in fact, that I decided to turn my phone off, and after dinner went straight back to the hotel to go to sleep. When I woke up and saw that I had missed calls from my agent, manager and dad I knew the rumours must have been true’.
Originally from the Congo, but someone who has also represented the Spanish national team, Ibaka now faces the challenge of moving to a new franchise, but says it is something he is relishing. ‘I feel like a rookie again. I’m thrilled to be in Orlando.
Playing for Frank Vogel, a coach who prides himself on defense, is very exciting for me,’ he said. And Ibaka should certainly look forward to this opportunity, as it may have been the perfect stage of his career for the move to take place.
Although he has been part of the OKC organisation for seven years, with one year spent at Real Madrid in 2011, his production had reduced almost across the board last season, meaning the new challenge at Orlando may just be the spark Ibaka needed to reboot his career.
At the age of 26 he is still yet to enter his peak, something Orlando will be hoping to see over the next few years, with Ibaka fired up and ready to go, adding ‘We have a core of like-minded, young, athletic players, which is going to be very fun. We are an old-school smashmouth team’.
That quote exemplifies exactly why Ibaka can be the perfect on-court leader for Vogel when he takes charge of his first season in October. Who better than a player who, especially of defense, plays that style of basketball perfectly?
Ibaka’s game has developed tenfold since his NBA journey began, so with him onside to nurture a team with players not too dissimilar to himself, like Aaron Gordon and Bismack Biyombo, and who has a large amount of playoff experience from his time with the Thunder, it can only be beneficial.
If a reinvigorated Ibaka also returns to the player who has been selected to the NBA All-Defensive First Team three times and twice been the NBA leader in blocks in 2012 and 2013, Orlando could become a fearsome team to face in the Eastern Conference and may be a team to watch next year.