After serving a three-game suspension for his role in an altercation with Cavs forward Marquese Chriss, Raptors centre Serge Ibaka is set to return to action Wednesday night against his former team, the Oklahoma City Thunder.
At Wednesday morning's shootaround, the 10-year veteran spoke with the media for the first time since the incident to discuss the suspension, his regret on the situation, what he would have done differently and how this all will impact his competitive fire.
On the suspension and returning to action
"I just feel blessed to be back and to do something I love to do. It was hard - the last couple of days, personally, I've heard from my family and friends but things happen, and I'm just gonna learn from that and move on.
"Most importantly, I feel so blessed and thankful to be able to be back and play the game I love."
On the incident and what he could have done differently
"Don't fight. I lost so much money… I have my foundation and I have a lot of plans [for] my foundation back home. I started thinking 'man, this type of money could help.' I started thinking, 'just don't fight. No matter what, don't fight.'
"Of course, I regret the incident. Also, I regret the money - not for me, but for people who really need it. I was thinking 'you know how many people need that money.'
"Instead, I could have said 'I'm not gonna fight' and took that money to go and do something for people who need it. It's one of those things when you sit down at home and you start thinking and it makes you realize what's important is to just not fight.
"Thank God I didn't land the punch. I saw a lot of comments, people saying 'Serge Ibaka never lands a punch', but they don't know that if I connect that punch, it would be a 10-12 game [suspension].
"At the end of the day, I feel so thankful to be back and that's what's important to me."
On managing his emotions
"Actually, I've been so good this year - I don't know if you guys saw that - I try so hard, but… he got me."
"I want to keep playing with my fire - that's who I am. I don't want to fake or try to change because something happened I have to change my personality or the way I play - no. This is who I am, I just want to [do it] in a smart way now."
Ibaka and the Raptors will be in action when they take on the Thunder Wednesday night at 9:30 p.m. on SN1.