Serge Ibaka, Spanish center of Congolese origin, who since last week has been confined to Fort Myers (Florida) together with his teammates of the Raptors de Toronto, declared that he had no problems with the “running of the bulls” and that they were ready to work for the start of the regular season.
“I saw how everyone is in good shape,” Ibaka said Saturday in a conference call with journalists. “They came here in great shape and as soon as we got there they all started working.”
Ibaka, a fundamental player within the Raptors, both a starter and a sixth man, pointed out that he already has 11 years of experience in the league to know when the professionals are mentally ready to compete or not.
“So I can tell you right now, mentally, everyone is ready. Everyone is ready,” reiterated the Spanish international.
The Raptors, who are working at the Florida Gulf Coast University in Fort Myers, can only shoot individually and in their own basket (as players of all teams) until after they enter the “bubble” of the Walt Disney complex. World and be quarantined before the restart of the competition, scheduled for July 30.
Although the Raptors are turning Fort Myers into a test for the NBA “bubble”, Ibaka said it felt good to be able to make a few shots after spending so much time in the gym.
“It’s better than nothing,” said Ibaka with a smile. “It’s useful. And, also, as I pointed out earlier, just looking at the guys around, I think it’s also good.”
Regarding the growing number of cases in Florida, Ibaka said it is something that worries him, in part because his daughter lives in Orlando.
Ibaka explained that she and those around her feel good, but she hopes that everyone will take precautions when entering the “bubble”.
“It is honestly something to be concerned about,” he admitted. “Hopefully everyone has to follow the rules, every player, when we get to Orlando, respect all the rules that they are going to give us. But I have my daughter who lives in Orlando, and it is understandable that you have some fear, that you worry and make sure everything is fine. “
As for the state of the team, he acknowledged that it had been a strange season both for the march before the start of key players such as forward Kawhi Leonard and shooting guard Danny Green, both free agents.
But in the end they showed that their champion title was no accident and when the temporary suspension came due to the coronavirus pandemic, the Raptors were second in the Eastern Conference, only surpassed by the Milwaukee Bucks, and on track to achieve 59 wins. , despite having had important player losses for more than a month.
“It’s been kind of weird with everything that’s going on,” Ibaka admitted when commenting on Toronto’s title defense. “But one thing we know is that it is over. What happened last season is over, and we have to try to put our mindset so that it is ready for what we have to face.”
The center acknowledged that defending the title is a difficult mission, but at the same time also a great challenge for all the professionals who make up the squad and that is why they must be mentally and physically ready when the time comes to restart the competition.
Ibaka, who spent most of his career as a power forward with the Oklahoma City Thunder, has completely changed to focus on the past two seasons with Toronto as a center, pairing, first with Lithuanian Jonas Valanciunas, and then with teammate of selection, Marc Gasol.
After all the injuries this season, including Gasol’s hamstring problems, who played only in 36 of the Raptors’ 64 games, Ibaka said he is excited to see what the Raptors are capable of now that they have such a variety of players.
“I can’t wait,” stressed Ibaka. “I think it is going to be a little strange at first to have everyone at the same time, but that is a good thing because we need it. I really can’t wait to see how it will go for us if we all have back.”
Given the great opportunity to have all the teammates recovered, Ibaka stressed that the “ceiling” of the team can be very high because not only do they already have the mentality of champions but also the experience and confidence that things can be good.
“However, the key will be assimilating that the time has come to start working very hard and I think the whole team is ready.”