We all have that one friend—you know, the one who is a live human troll with no let-up. On social media, you can mute, block, unfollow, get around the issue in a variety of ways. But when that person is standing in front of you each and every single day, gnawing at every bit of your last nerve, sometimes all you can do is give in.
It appears Serge Ibaka has reached that point with OG Anunoby.
The pair may have had three months away from each other, but Anunoby seems to have made the most of being reunited with Ibaka in Florida ahead of a resumption to the NBA season. After spending all of his quarantine either working on his basketball or culinary skills—according to him, anyway—Anunoby rekindled the flame from their now world-famous interaction on Ibaka’s YouTube fashion show Avec Classe by telling Ibaka he put him on cooking.
“Yesterday I spoke with him, he said he put me on cooking, too, so I’m really so confused now,” Ibaka said. “I don’t know, I really don’t know. You should ask OG, man. He said he put me on cooking; I guess OG put me on everything. Every time when he sees me wear something, he says, ‘I put you on this, I put you on that, I put you on this,’ so I guess OG put me on cooking, too. That’s why he be cooking.”
It was all said with the tone of a defeated man, a 30-year-old who’s run out of patience for the antics of a 22-year-old. As you may recall, the Avec Classe scene that went viral and created a stream of content was their interaction over scarves, when Anunoby was adamant that he introduced Ibaka to, essentially, fashion sense.
It’s all in good fun, though, as Ibaka couldn’t be more excited about the team’s prospects on the court. It’s all a bit strange returning as defending champions past the usual due date without having played any playoff games, but while the time off has led him to believe there is plenty of work to be done physically to be ready for the resumption of the NBA season, Ibaka holds that the mental strength of the roster will be their greatest pillar if and when the ball goes up.
"You can see when people's locked in and they are ready mentally, and when they are not. So, I can tell you right now, mentally, everybody is ready. Everybody is ready."
“We believe in us. We have the experience,” Ibaka said. “We have the championship mentality already. We have confidence. But now it's time to go. Time to go to work, and like I said we're ready…
“I saw just how everyone is in great shape. They came here in great shape and as soon as we got here everyone was starting to put in work. I've been in the league for 11 years. You can see when people's locked in and they are ready mentally, and when they are not. So, I can tell you right now, mentally, everybody is ready. Everybody is ready.”
Over the course of the 2019-20 season, Ibaka has taken steps forward as a player, primarily with his passing but also with his three-point shooting. He has previously noted Marc Gasol’s presence as an elite playmaker on the roster has motivated him to improve, but head coach Nick Nurse has also been of the opinion that Gasol’s absence due to injury this season has also challenged Ibaka to be better just by virtue of spending more time on the court. As far as shooting the ball is concerned, Ibaka has raised his three-point percentage from 29 percent last season to 40 percent this season. Averaging 18.5 points and 9.4 rebounds as a starting centre this season, Ibaka is going to be in demand for quite a few teams as a free agent at the end of the season.
There will be plenty for him to consider when the time comes—the anticipated reduction in salary cap among them—but arguably the main priority will be his 14-year-old daughter, Ranie, who currently resides in Florida. As the case count has continued to rise at an alarming rate, Ibaka’s worries as a father have grown.
“Honestly, it's really concerning,” Ibaka said. “Hopefully, everybody has to follow the rules, every player, when we get in the bubble in Orlando, we can respect all the notes that they're going to give us. But I have my daughter who lives here in Orlando, and it's kind of scary a little bit. It's something where you have to make sure you look at it…
“Thank God she is OK, and everyone around her is OK.”
Toronto will be difficult to leave for Ibaka. He has come to love the city and ingratiated himself extremely well with the fans, and the only question will be money as the Raptors look to keep their books in order for the summer of 2021. When he looked to keep himself busy during the lockdown, Ibaka started How Talented Are You to engage with the fan base out of his Toronto condo.
“During that moment, I wanted to try to do something different because I had a lot of time off, nothing to do, why not try to do something different,” Ibaka said. “As an athlete, it’s always good when you can do things with the fans, try to connect with the fans. I think there’s nothing wrong with that. That’s one thing you can never go wrong as an athlete, try to connect with the fans.”