The Magic took a major risk trading for Serge Ibaka, who’s heading into unrestricted free agency next summer. Rather than have Victor Oladipo (who’ll be a restricted free agent) and the No. 11 pick (who’s on a four-year contract), Orlando could come away empty-handed within a year if Ibaka leaves.
So far, everyone is saying the right things.
Ibaka, via Josh Robbins of the Orlando Sentinel:
“I’m looking to stay here to play forever — for [as] many, many years as possible,” Serge Ibaka said during the Magic’s media day.
“I’m not really worried about my contract year or my long-term,” Ibaka said.
“One of the things I learned playing on a good team is when the team wins, when you make the playoffs, everybody looks good. So that’s what will be my focus right now, because if we win and make the playoffs, everything will take care of itself.”
Magic general manager Rob Hennigan, via Robbins:
“We certainly traded for Serge thinking long-term, and that’s our expectation,” Magic general manager Rob Hennigan said.
I’d be surprised if the Magic and Ibaka didn’t discuss the parameters of his next contract, with the Thunder’s permission, before making the trade. But the Collective Bargaining Agreement prevents any binding unofficial arrangements, so nothing is set in stone.
Ibaka is already talking about making the playoffs, and that would go a long way toward convincing him to stay in Orlando. But what if the Magic miss the postseason, a distinct possibility? How keen will Ibaka be on returning then?
He’ll have other suitors – unless he has a down year. Then, how badly will Orlando want him back?
That Ibaka and the Magic are entering the season with the stated intention of a long-term arrangement means something. But it means only so much.