As expected, Serge Ibaka picks up $9.7 million player option with Clippers

Dallas Mavericks v LA Clippers - Game One
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Serge Ibaka missed 30 regular season games and all but 18 minutes of the playoffs this season due to a back injury, one that forced him to undergo surgery during the postseason.

Considering all that, it’s not a surprise Ibaka picked up his $9.7 million player option to stay with Los Angeles next season. Shams Charania of The Athletic broke the news.

Last offseason, the Clippers signed Ibaka to a two-year, $19 million contract expecting him to be a key player for them deep in the postseason. Los Angeles envisioned a big man who could space the floor on one end of the court — pulling Rudy Gobert and other centers out of the paint — and one who would be a rim protector on the other end.

Ibaka played solidly for the Clippers the first part of the season, and he averaged 11.1 points and 6.7 assists a game. But he was out of the rotation not long after the mid-point of the season and his back never healed, allowing him to return.

Ibaka picking up his option means the Clippers are a luxury-tax paying team, leaving them the $5.9 million tax-payer mid-level exception to draw in another player.

Still looming for the Clippers is Kawhi Leonard‘s decision on his $36 million player option for next season. League sources expect him to opt-out — despite undergoing ACL surgery after the playoffs — and re-signing with the Clippers.