Serge Ibaka has signed a contract to play in Spain during the NBA lockout.
The Oklahoma City Thunder forward becomes the team's third player to opt to play overseas during the NBA's labor dispute, which is now costing the league regular season games.
Ibaka signed a two-month contract with Spanish power Real Madrid, his agent Andy Miller has confirmed to The Oklahoman. The Spanish web site Marca.com first reported the deal Tuesday morning. According to the report, Ibaka's contract will pay him the equivalent of $140,000 per month.
“I'm very proud to start being part of an historic club like Real Madrid,” Ibaka wrote on his web site Tuesday. “I'm thankful for this great opportunity as a person and as a player. I arrive with humility to try to learn from the coach and the teammates and, at the same time, with ambition to try to help the team win as many games as possible while I'm with the team. I'm excited to get to know the team's fans.”
Ibaka joins a roster that includes friend and fellow NBA player Rudy Fernandez, who was traded to Dallas in June after three seasons with Portland. Sergio Rodriguez, a four-year NBA player, and recent draft picks Nikola Mirotic, whose rights are owned by Chicago, and Ante Tomic, a 2008 second-round selection by Utah, also play for Real Madrid. Center Felipe Reyes and guard Sergio Llull are popular players who also compete for Real Madrid.
Ibaka, who is scheduled to leave for Madrid Tuesday night, is no stranger to Spanish competition.
After a short stint in France, Ibaka began his professional career in earnest in Spain with L'Hospitalet in 2006, playing two years for that club before being drafted by the Thunder franchise in 2008. After being selected 24th overall in the NBA Draft, Ibaka remained in Spain for the 2008-09 season and competed with Ricoh Manresa, a club that competes against Real Madrid in the ACB league.
This summer, Ibaka, a native of the Republic of the Congo, competed with Spain's national team after being granted Spanish citizenship. While teaming with Fernandez, L.A. Lakers forward Pau Gasol, Memphis center Marc Gasol, Toronto's Jose Calderon and Minnesota's Ricky Rubio, Ibaka averaged 7.1 points, 3.9 rebounds and 1.2 blocked shots while helping Spain win the EuroBasket championship.
Since joining the NBA, Ibaka has made Spain his off-season home and spends most of his time training there in the summers.
Ibaka follows center Byron Mullens and guard Thabo Sefolosha as Thunder players who have signed overseas during this lockout. Mullens in mid-September signed in Greece but returned to the states a short time later. Two weeks ago, Sefolosha finalized a deal to play in Turkey.
Like Sefolosha, Ibaka can return to the Thunder whenever the lockout is lifted and the 2011-12 season gets underway.