Clippers’ hope Serge Ibaka’s comeback is close – Daily News


LOS ANGELES — There could be a Serge sighting coming.

A sighting, potentially, of Serge Ibaka in uniform instead of in the artistic wardrobe stylings he’s been modeling on the catwalk– er, sideline — at recent Clippers games.

Ibaka has been out of action for the past 27 games with what the team has described as lower back tightness. But he’s been ramping up his activity behind the scenes lately, his teammates said Sunday after their 106-100 setback against New York.

“I know he’s coming with us on the trip,” said the Clippers’ French forward Nicolas Batum, who often would speak his native language with Ibaka when they were on the court together this season — something that hasn’t happened since March 14.

“I don’t know what his status is the next couple games, should ask him and the coach,” added Batum, in something of a disclaimer. “But hopefully he’ll be ready for us for the playoffs.”

Clippers star Kawhi Leonard said everyone in the organization who’s been able to assist Ibaka with his recovery, has — including Leonard, who’s tried to treat his friend as if he’s been an active member of the roster.

“Training staff and the coaches been doing a good job,” Leonard said. “Letting him get some five-on-five in, letting him run up and down the court, making sure his body’s healthy, in the training room, whatever he’s doing, stretching or getting a massage or doing some type of activation work.

“So that’s all we doing. And then just trying to keep him in the loop. That’s what I try to do myself, ask him what is he seeing, in him giving me feedback on what he sees on the floor. And that’s all I can do, just try to keep his spirits up, still talk to him as if he’s playing.”

Ibaka signed a two-year, $19 million deal with this Clippers in free agency, reuniting with Leonard, both of them having been members of Toronto’s 2019 NBA championship team.

In his first 39 games with the Clippers, Ibaka averaged 10.9 points and 6.7 rebounds, shooting 50.7% from the floor.

Whenever he does return, Paul George said he believes Ibaka’s presence will benefit the Clippers in a variety of ways.

“He will definitely be helpful,” George said. “His defensive assertiveness on the team, his defensive presence on the team, he’ll be super-helpful, especially on offense as well, spreading the floor.

“He’s another big body that we can use in these matchups where we needed another big to guard alongside with Zu. And, you know, he’s just a veteran. He was great when he was in the lineup with us and we look forward to having him back with us.”

LET’S GET PHYSICAL

Clippers Coach Tyronn Lue credited the Knicks for their physicality Sunday, saying that it “really wore us down throughout the course of the game.”


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