The Clippers' frontcourt rotation takes a blow with Serge Ibaka out for the rest of the playoffs. Marc Spears from The Undefeated reported that Ibaka had season-ending back surgery yesterday.
It was clear that Ibaka was limited to some capacity leading up to the announcement. He played sparingly in two games against the Mavericks in the Clippers' previous series. He didn't see the floor in the first two games against the Jazz.
If anything, the Clips need him more against the Jazz since he can match Gobert's size on the boards while also spacing out the floor and dragging Gobert from the basket. Ibaka didn't travel with the team to Utah for their first two games, signaled something was wrong.
The Clippers signed Ibaka to shore up their big man rotation. He gave them a veteran option with tons of playoff experience. Ibaka is a mobile big who can scramble a bit on defense and contain guards. His block numbers have steadily declined since his days with the Oklahoma City Thunder, but he still can protect the rim if asked to.
The Clippers will miss his versatility at the center spot. Tyron Lue and staff will have to rely on Ivica Zubac as an interior presence and utilize Marcus Morris at the five lineup more in this series. Both lineups have their benefits and downsides, but Ibaka was able to bring length and spacing.
One of the implications of the injury is Ibaka's status for next year. It generally takes half a year or more to recover from back surgery, so Ibaka will miss a sizable portion next year.
Ibaka also will be turning 32 years old and entering his 13th season, meaning he might not even return to the level of athlete he was this past year. He was signed as the mobile big option for the Clippers, and he might not be able to adequately fill that role.