The good-natured banter between then-Toronto Raptors teammates Serge Ibaka and Kawhi Leonard in an April 2019 episode of “How Hungry Are You?,” Ibaka’s one-of-a-kind cooking show on YouTube, is both amusing and revealing, considering how rarely Leonard lets the world enjoy his sense of humor.
In it, Ibaka asks his guest the question everyone in Canada wanted to know at the time: “Are you coming back?”
“I don’t know yet,” Leonard says.
“You better, brother.”
“What type of question is that, though?” Leonard protests.
“Bro,” Ibaka says, “I’ve been working so hard to make you feel comfortable.”
“Have you?” Leonard retorts, a sly smile spreading.
This weekend, it was Leonard wanting to know if Ibaka was coming to join him.
Ibaka didn’t demur long, reportedly agreeing Saturday to take up the Clippers on the two-year, $19 million offer. And now it’s the SoCal native’s turn at hospitality, as together they’ll try to deliver another organization with the first NBA championship that it’s so hungry for.
Last free agency, the Clippers were the winners in the Leonard sweepstakes, bringing aboard the Moreno Valley native and pairing him with Paul George to immediately turn their team into a contender for the NBA crown.
They came up well short in Leonard’s first season in L.A., suffering a stinging second-round playoff collapse in the Orlando bubble, where they blew a 3-1 series lead against the Denver Nuggets.
In the immediate aftermath of the season-ending Game 7 defeat, Leonard made a request: “Just gotta carry over and get smarter as a team. Get smarter. Basketball IQ got to get better.”
Enter Ibaka, who is known for his on-court acumen, for making the right read and being in the right place.
In Toronto, Ibaka and Leonard worked well together. They shared the floor for almost 1,200 regular-season minutes, during which time the Raptors had an offensive rating of 115.2 and a defensive rating of 108.8, for a net rating of 6.4
They were even better together in the postseason, when they played 327 minutes together and recorded an offensive rating of 112.9 and a defensive rating of 100.3, for a 12.6 net rating.
After Leonard left for L.A., Ibaka remained in Toronto on the final year of his contract, and he had perhaps his best offensive season, notching a career-high 15.4 points and 1.4 assists while shooting 38.5 percent from 3-point range.
And what if Leonard and Ibaka aren’t the only duo reunited on the Clippers roster?
It’s possible that the Morris twins — versatile, hard-nosed forwards Marcus Morris Sr. and Markieff — could team up again, at least according to a reporter from the Bay Area TV station. On Saturday, Jason Dumas tweeted that L.A. could be interested in bringing in Markieff Morris to join his brother, Marcus, though the Clippers were thought to be “taking their time.”
Source: Markieff Morris is looking to join his brother, Marcus with the Los Angeles Clippers. The Clippers are interested but taking their time.
Lakers are still interested in bringing him back even with the signing of Montrezl Harrell.
— Jason Dumas (@JDumasReports) November 22, 2020
Marcus already is in the fold; shortly after NBA free agency opened Friday, he agreed to remain with the Clippers on a four-year, $64 million deal.
On Sunday evening, Markieff, who won an NBA title with the Lakers last season, remained a free agent.
The 31-year-olds have been teammates many times before, through school, AAU and collegiately at Kansas before they were drafted, back to back, in 2011, with Markieff going 13th to the Suns and Marcus getting selected 14th by Houston.
And, after the Rockets traded Marcus to Phoenix in 2013, they were on the same side as pros for two-plus season on the Suns.
In both full seasons the brothers played together in the desert, they posted positive net ratings when they were on the court together and averaged a combined 25 points in 2013-14 and a combined 22.4 points in 2014-15. Then, much to the twins’ chagrin, Marcus was traded to Detroit (with Reggie Bullock and Danny Granger, to Detroit for just the 2020 second-round pick) before the 2015-16 season.
It’s worth noting, surely, that the Lakers — who Saturday reportedly came to terms on a two-year deal with center Marc Gasol — reportedly also would like to bring Markieff back, and, according to NBA The Athletic’s John Hollinger, should be able to at a 20 percent raise on his minimum contract, as a non-Bird free agent, for about $2.8 million.
With 11 guaranteed contracts, the Clippers, meanwhile, are in the market for a primary ball handler and improved depth at forward to help cover the departure of JaMychal Green. They’ve got their bi-annual exception (worth $3.6 million) and veteran’s minimum contracts to do it.