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Report: Bucks, Ibaka “Mutually Agree” to Part Ways

He doesn’t play basketball, he makes art.

NBA: Charlotte Hornets at Milwaukee Bucks Michael McLoone-USA TODAY Sports

Where there’s smoke, there’s fire. Maybe not a lot of fire, but maybe someone lit a candle or something. Anyways, smoke, fire, you get it.

After hearing whispers for weeks about potential “chemistry issues” and rumors of unrest, it appears that the Milwaukee Bucks have officially located the source of the discontentment. Serge Ibaka wants out, and the Bucks are willing to help him leave. Per Shams Charania:

There’s a number of reasons why Serge Ibaka might be unhappy in Milwaukee. On the one hand, minutes in the front court are scarce behind Giannis Antetokounmpo, Brook Lopez, and Bobby Portis. Serge has loads of experience running NBA defenses, and even at his age he knows where to be and how to get to his spots. Those preferred spots might not be the same as the team’s spots, but he knows where they are! Ibaka also kept pace with the league’s evolution by honing his three-point shot; he’s a 35.9% shooter from deep on his career, and he shot about as well during his short tenure as a Buck.

It also happens to be the case that Ibaka, 33, is a shadow of a shell of his former self. He’s not the same player as when he was the anchor of the Durant-Harden-Westbrook iteration of the Thunder, or when he and Marc Gasol combined forces with Kyle Lowry and Kawhi Leonard in Toronto to make a run all the way to the NBA championship. Those years are long gone. Serge knows where his spots are, but he can’t get there on time. His brain knows what to do, but actually executing rotations, moving to open spaces, and covering the gaps is a beat slower than it used to be. At least Sandro Mamukelashvili can handle the ball and create plays a little bit.

For reference, Ibaka signed a one-year deal at the league minimum, which carries a cap hit of $1.8 million. In all likelihood, Ibaka will either be moved as a part of a larger deal where his salary fits into the structure of the trade, or sent to a team that has an open roster spot in exchange for an effectively “fake” pick, like a top-55 protected second-rounder in 2029. There is not a huge return to expect here, so for the foreseeable future the team will continue to play while Serge stays on his own, waiting for a deal to fall into place.

Serge Ibaka joined the Bucks in a midseason trade last year, when Milwaukee sent out Donte DiVincenzo – and Rodney Hood and Semi Ojeleye, don’t forget them! – in return for Serge and a pair of second round picks. The Bucks were already leaning away from giving DiVincenzo the extension that he sought (and Donte is playing on a 2-year/$9.0M contract in Golden State right now, so no one else was ponying up the cash either) so taking a flier on Ibaka and some draft capital was a worthy gamble. Ibaka didn’t pan out as a player, and Milwaukee will have to find some way to replace the <checks notes> 185 minutes he might have played in the second half of the season.

We’d be remiss if we took only the negative view on Ibaka’s potential to contribute to an NBA team. After all, his own teammate knows that there’s a role for him, even if it’s not on the Bucks.

Role player? Rebounder? Screen setter?! And all on a minimum contract? The trade market for Ibaka’s services should be heating up!