The Los Angeles Clippers announced big man Serge Ibaka underwent season-ending back surgery Thursday. He is expected to make a full recovery.
Ibaka, 31, is in his first season with the Clippers. The 12-year NBA veteran averaged 11.1 points, 6.7 rebounds and 1.1 blocks in 23.3 minutes over 41 games for the Clips. He missed 30 games from March 15 through May 13 but returned to the court with two regular-season matchups remaining.
Ibaka suited up for both of those contests as well as Los Angeles' first two playoff games against the Dallas Mavericks, but he was then listed as questionable on the NBA injury report with back spasms for Game 3 of that first-round playoff series. He missed that game and has been off the court ever since.
Ibaka told reporters (h/t Law Murray of The Athletic) in May that he had been dealing with back pain since the beginning of the season.
“I have a pinched nerve,” Ibaka said.
Murray added that Ibaka said he had been taking pills to try to manage the problem before he was forced to sit out beginning in mid-March.
Ibaka added: "When your nerves come from your disc and go down in your legs, it’s more nerves. Yeah, it’s been a very rough year for me since the beginning of the season. I wanted to play through the pain, but at some point, I could not continue to play like that.”
Ibaka, a three-time member of the NBA All-Defensive Team, has led the NBA in blocks per game twice.
Ibaka started 39 of his 41 regular-season games for the Clippers, with the lone two exceptions occurring at the end of the campaign when he returned to the court following a two-month hiatus.
Without Ibaka, the Clippers have gone to a few different options to handle the center spot.
The Clippers have opted to go small at times and insert Nicolas Batum as the de facto center. They've also gone toward a more traditional lineup and placed Ivica Zubac at the 5.
With Ibaka sidelined, the Clippers signed free-agent big man DeMarcus Cousins in April. He's filled in as a backup big man behind Zubac.
L.A. is currently facing the Utah Jazz in Round 2 of the Western Conference playoffs. Utah holds a 2-0 lead in the best-of-seven matchup.