Serge Ibaka says Raptors players are 'locked in' as they ready for NBA title defense

Sporting News

Raptors big man Serge Ibaka says his team is "locked in" and ready to defend its NBA title following the coronavirus-enforced season break.

The 2019-20 NBA season is set to resume July 30 at Walt Disney World in Central Florida after being suspended March 11 amid the COVID-19 pandemic. The Raptors will restart their season Aug. 1 against the Lakers. Toronto (46-18) will begin the 22-team restart in second place in the Eastern Conference, 6 1/2 games behind the Bucks (53-12).

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"I saw just how everyone is in great shape," Ibaka told reporters on a conference call Saturday. "They came (to Fort Myers, Fla., for training) 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 (are) 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."

Ibaka, who helped the Raptors win their first championship last season, added: "It's been a little bit weird [this season] with everything that's going on. But one thing we know is that it's over. Whatever happened last season is over, and we've got to try to put our mindset so that it's ready to go for this one.

"We know it's going to be hard, it's going to be a challenge, and everyone is going to come for us because we are the champs, so we have to be ready."

The 30-year-old center admitted he is worried about the rising number of coronavirus cases in Florida.

"Honestly it's really concerning," he 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."

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