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Coronavirus: Raptors ready to defend NBA title – Ibaka

By Sacha Pisani

Toronto, July 5: Serge Ibaka warned the Toronto Raptors are "locked in" and ready to defend their NBA title following the coronavirus-enforced break.

The NBA season is set to resume on July 30 after the 2019-20 campaign was postponed due to the COVID-19 pandemic in March.

Orlando's Disney World complex will host 22 teams, with the Los Angeles Lakers headlining the league's comeback against rivals the Los Angeles Clippers on July 30 after the New Orleans Pelicans face the Utah Jazz on the same day.

Defending champions the Raptors – second in the Eastern Conference and trailing the NBA-leading Milwaukee Bucks (53-12) with a 46-18 record – will restart their season against the Lakers on August 1.

Raptors star Ibaka said his team-mates are ready to return, telling reporters via a conference call on Saturday (July 4): "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."

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."

Meanwhile, 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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Story first published: Sunday, July 5, 2020, 8:20 [IST]
Other articles published on Jul 5, 2020
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