Things at Milwaukee panned out very differently to what Serge Ibaka expected when he re-signed with the franchise last season.
The 14-season veteran knew he wasn’t going to get as many minutes as he would have liked but the Bucks coach (at the time), Mike Budenholzer, reassured him.
“(Budenholzer) told me to my face,” Ibaka told Shams Charania. ‘Listen, you’re coming here, I promise you nothing, but you never know, it’s a long season, guys can have injuries, you have to stay ready’.”
However, Ibaka soon became confused when players were getting injured and he he still wasn’t getting any time on the court.
“Going there, I said, ‘cool, I’m going to stay ready…’,Ibaka said. “I’m a professional and so grateful to be in this position. It’s a blessing no matter if I am playing or not. But now when things start getting more confused for me mentally was like when a guy got injured and nobody called my name to play. And when those guys came back, that’s when you called me. And then I play one game and then you don’t play me for three weeks? On top of that, there was no communications, so that’s mainly the reason why I left…”
The almost-34-year-old condemned the Bucks’ for their lack of communication and mixed messages.
“When I go talk to the front office, they tell me different things,” Ibaka said. “They love me. They want me to be there, they want me to stay. And when I go back on the court, it’s different. It got to some point where I cannot take this anymore. I love this game so much, but if this is going to take my peace of mind, my joy, it’s not worth it. I earned my respect in this league. At least communicate. I’m not asking about playing, I’m just asking for communication.”
During his time, Ibaka has experienced similar situations, like when he was with the Clippers in the 2021-22 season.
But the main difference was that Clippers coach Ty Lue’s communication was far better than Budenholzer’s, Ibaka explained.
“I was with the Clippers,” Ibaka said. “One thing I respect so much about Ty Lue, he used to call me in the morning. ‘This week, I’m going with the young fellas.’ ‘OK, cool. Perfect. No problem,'” Ibaka said. “Like it or not, at the end of the day, I have to be professional. At least I know the next two weeks, I have to work. And when something changes or something comes up, he calls me in the office, ‘Listen, Serge. Tonight, I think I will put you in. Be ready.’ Or ‘I don’t know. I’m not sure yet.’ That’s it.”
The elite defender only ended up playing in 16 games for the Bucks last season, where he averaged 4.1 points, 2.8 rebounds and 0.3 assists on 48.1 percent shooting from the field and 33.3 percent shooting from three.
He is now and unrestricted free agent and feels as though he has more to give in the NBA.