Serge Ibaka will be asked to make Toronto Raptors a true contender

It was hard to not see the metaphor as Kyle Lowry stared down at the bin where he was soaking his feet.

There, the All-Star guard had placed the stat sheet from Tuesday’s 105-94 loss to the Chicago Bulls, floating on top of the ice water, but somehow gamely not soaking and melting away.

The Raptors, after another frustrating effort, are as cold as ice right now.

Coming from — and expected to bring with him — Florida’s heat, Serge Ibaka will find a team in need of a boost to fulfill a spring promise to become a real threat to the Cleveland Cavaliers in the East.

Ibaka will need to find magic that clearly evaded his Orlando stint if there’s any chance Toronto is the team that stops LeBron James from playing in his seventh straight NBA finals.

The Raptors certainly aren’t that team right now.

“Right now, we’re a way below .500 team,” Lowry told GiveMeSport. “We’re playing really bad basketball. It’s crazy right now. I mean, we went from this to that.”

Toronto just suffered its 11th loss in 15 games and are fifth in the East. The Raptors fell behind by 23 points to a struggling and banged-up Chicago team and fought all the way back to five points twice in the waning moments.

Jimmy Butler continued to pour in free throws, though, and Toronto star DeMar DeRozan was excused early, as his second technical of the game with 25.0 seconds remaining resulted in an ejection.

“We’ve got to figure something out,” Lowry said as DeRozan sulked two stalls over. “It starts within us, and it starts with our leaders. Me and DeMar, we’ve got to figure it out. We have to find way to push our teammates to get better and push ourselves to be better.”

Thankfully, help is on the way.

Earlier in the day, the front office had swung hard, connecting with Ibaka, a free-agent-to-be, in a move concocted to solve Toronto’s biggest concerns.

The Raptors only lost Terrence Ross and a late first-round pick, and then they went on the floor at the United Center and showed why they needed Ibaka.

The Bulls finished at will on the Toronto interior in the second quarter, as Taj Gibson and Fabricio Oberto combined for five dunks in a short span.

Speaking of high-efficiency shots, the Raptors weren’t getting any of their own. Nothing came easy and the team did not make a single 3-pointer (a rarity in today’s NBA) in the first half, going to the locker room down 58-39.

Toronto coach Dwane Casey took the blame for the early effort.

“This game is tough,” Casey said. “We weren’t ready to play and I’ll take the blame for that for not having the guys ready to play, jacked up and ready to play in the first half.”

He should be prepared to take more blame if Ibaka’s arrival does not yield the right results.

The Congo-born forward should help with defensive toughness and offensive spacing, but fitting him in and evolving the schemes on the fly will be a tough task.

If it doesn’t work, and the Raptors front office can’t say a title was within reach this year, changes could be coming to The North.

Because this time, good enough on paper, floating along with a pool of pretenders, won’t do.

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