NBA Free Agency 2020: Latest News on Serge Ibaka Contract, Pau Gasol's Future

David KenyonFeatured ColumnistApril 10, 2020

SACRAMENTO, CA - MARCH 8: Serge Ibaka #9 of the Toronto Raptors looks on during the game against the Sacramento Kings on March 8, 2020 at Golden 1 Center in Sacramento, California. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images Agreement. Mandatory Copyright Notice: Copyright 2020 NBAE (Photo by Rocky Widner/NBAE via Getty Images)
Rocky Widner/Getty Images

Although NBA free agency is often an exciting time for fans, that positive feeling may turn to nervousness when there's a possibility of losing a key player.

Fortunately for supporters of the Toronto Raptors, however, they can be confident Serge Ibaka is going to stick around.

Set to become an unrestricted free agent, Ibaka is playing the final season of a three-year, $64 million contract. But he told Matt Rodrigo of Sportsnet that leaving Toronto isn't going to happen.

"I'm gonna stay, bro," Ibaka said. "This place is beautiful. ... It's a beautiful city, beautiful people here and we have one of the best teams. Why leave, bro? Go where?"

During the 2016 offseason, the Oklahoma City Thunder traded Ibaka after a seven-year tenure. The 7-footer played 56 games with the Orlando Magic before they shipped him to the Raptors, who re-signed him to the current deal in July 2017.

Ibaka has transitioned from a full-time starting role to a semi-regular spot, yet his impact remains high.

He averaged 11.3 points and 5.2 rebounds in the 2019 NBA Finals to help Toronto claim its first-ever title. This season, he averaged 16 points and shooting 39.8 percent from threeboth of which would be career-high marksbefore the shutdown.

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So now, it's about money.

Fred VanVleet and Marc Gasol will be unrestricted free agents too. Kyle Lowry is due $30.5 million next year, and Pascal Siakam's four-year extension kicks in. Toronto already has $85.1 million committed to a projected $115 million salary cap.

But because of Bird rights, the Raptors have the maneuverability to re-sign Ibaka, VanVleet and Gasol. Provided the financial terms are no issue, Ibaka should return to Toronto.

As for Marc's brother, Pau Gasol, he's contemplating the question of whether he'll return to the NBA at all.

The elder Gasol signed a one-year contract with the Portland Trail Blazers last offseason, but a lingering injury kept the veteran on the sideline. That story is all too familiar lately.

In 2018-19 with the San Antonio Spurs, he missed 30 games because of a stress fracture in his right foot. San Antonio agreed to a buyout with Gasol, who then joined the Milwaukee Bucks. But a left foot injury ended his season after three games.

While recovering from surgery, Gasol headed to Portland a one-year deal. Within a month of the 2019-20 season starting, the Blazers released him because of complications in his rehab.

But he's hoping that's not it.

ESPN's Zach Lowe asked whether he planned to attempt a return in 2021 and play in his fifth Olympics.

"Well, I'm going to try," Gasol said. "But first of all, I gotta focus on what I controlwhich is my rehaband kind of follow that process and get healthy, get that foot strong. And now, then, find out whether I can or I won't."

Gasol acknowledged he has considered playing in his native Spain but his first choice is staying in the NBA.

Even before exploring potential suitors, the key is recovering from this injury. But if Gasolwho turns 40 in July—is healthy, he could play a final NBA season before a well-deserved Olympic sendoff.

                      

Follow Bleacher Report writer David Kenyon on Twitter @Kenyon19_BR.