On Saturday, Kawhi Leonard’s pal Serge Ibaka exercised his $9.7 million player option for the final season of his two-year deal with the Clippers, according to The Athletic’s Shams Charania and confirmed by a league source.
Ibaka, a veteran center, underwent season-ending back surgery on June 10 for an injury that caused him to miss 30 regular-season games in the first stint in L.A., where he teamed up again with Leonard after they played together on Toronto’s first NBA title team in 2019.
Leonard’s decision on whether he’ll exercise his $36 million player option is due by Sunday.
If Leonard, 30, opts in, he’ll take himself off the board on which he would have been the hottest commodity on the free agent market this offseason despite months of rehab following surgery July 13 to repair a torn anterior cruciate ligament.
He would be able to sign a four-year, $181.5 million extension starting in 2022-23, in essence giving up $3.3 million in 2021-22 in order to earn $50.2 million in the final year of that deal.
If he opts out, he’ll be able to enter free agency with 10 years of NBA service, setting him up to sign a more lucrative new deal with the Clippers starting at 35% of the salary cap.
Ibaka, 31, missed 30 games last season with what the Clippers called “back tightness” before he returned for the final two regular-season games, after the first of which he said he’d experienced a pinched nerve in his back. In 41 games in his 11th NBA season, Ibaka averaged 11.1 points and 6.7 rebounds and shot 51% from the field.
In the postseason, he played 12 minutes, 47 seconds in Game 1 of the Clippers’ first-round series against Dallas and then just 5:35 in Game 2 before being ruled out with back spasms.
The Clippers on Saturday also extended a qualifying offer to third-year wing Amir Coffey, making him a restricted free agent, according to a league source. Last season — Coffey’s second as a two-way player — he averaged 3.2 points and 1.0 rebounds in nine minutes per game on 43.7% shooting from the field and 41.1% from 3-point range.
In a 125-118 victory over Miami in February, Coffey took advantage of his opportunity, logging 32 minutes on a night the Clippers were down four starters and draining a career-high five 3-pointers just four days after he’d played for the Agua Caliente Clippers in the G League bubble near Orlando, Florida.
Coffey will have to fight for a roster spot after the Clippers got their offseason moving with trades to grab three players in Thursday’s NBA Draft, including an athletic wing-type prospect in Tennessee’s Keon Johnson at No. 21. They also traded to acquire late-blooming Ohio point guard Jason Preston with the 33rd pick and Kentucky guard Brandon Boston Jr. with the 51st.
On the sideline, the team also reportedly plans to add Jay Larranaga to Tyronn Lue’s coaching staff, according to Sports Illustrated’s Chris Mannix. For the past seven seasons, Larranaga was Brad Stevens’ top assistant in Boston.
unfinished personal business #Grateful
— Serge Ibaka (@sergeibaka) August 1, 2021
… sometimes injuries get in the way and health has to be a priority. I appreciate all the love and support from everyone and now I have my mindset on supporting my team and getting healthy and ready for next season #ClipperNation
— Serge Ibaka (@sergeibaka) June 11, 2021
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