Ivica Zubac is a Croatian basketball player currently dishing out blocks as a Laker. He started playing basketball in Cibona Zagreb, if that rings a bell it is probably because you read about Dražen Petrović or Dario Šarić – both have played for Cibona as well (as did almost any Croatian NBA player). He spent a brief time in Serbian Mega Leks after Cibona went into some financial difficulties. This was only a bridge to that year’s draft in 2016.
Then, as the 32nd pick in 2016, the LA Lakers selected Ivica Zubac. Big Zu, as the Lakers call him, as many young draftees spent most of his first few years in the league playing for the Lakers G- League team, South Bay Lakers (previously Los Angeles D-Fenders). Many players will point out patience and positive attitude as key while climbing out the ranks. You have to take the minutes you get, make the most of them and just work hard so you are ready when the opportunity comes. It seems Zubac has managed to do just that.
Everyone told me I need to be focused, ready and wait for my moment. You know you can play, you are good enough. There are a few guys ahead of you in the rotation and you just have to wait for your shot. That is your only chance and you have to give it all in every workout.
His opportunity came with JaVale McGee dealing with pneumonia. He got significant minutes, had a double-double against New Orleans, put up 19 points against Memphis and now had 18 points (9-10 from the field), 11 rebounds, 2 assists and 2 blocks.
The most impressive part of his last performance is that the Lakers were without LeBron for most of the second half, in Oracle against the Warriors and Zubac didn’t flinch. His pick-and-roll game with Rondo was particularly impressive.
Rondo’s been out due to injury, Big Zu out of the rotation and that gave them a lot of time in the practice facility playing 3 on 3 and developing the chemistry and timing which are crucial for a good pick-and-roll tandem.
I know how to play pick-and-roll and Rondo i s one of the best in that regard. It feels like we’ve been playing together my whole life. I always know what to do when he has the ball in his hands, and he knows how to find me.
Zubac will have more chance to show his value and ensure some playing time even when McGee returns. A good player on a 2nd round rookie scale contract is one of the best assets to have and the Lakers got another one.
P.S. Lakers are always mentioned as lucky to be in LA and that giving them an advantage in developing a team. While it may be the case, in today’s NBA a big market isn’t such a comparative advantage if your team sucks. The Lakers have been drafting quite well (especially in the 2nd round) in the recent past and this should not be overlooked. Here are their draft picks since the last Kobe years:
- Julius Randle – 7th pick
- Jordan Clarkson – 46th pick
- D’Angelo Russel – 2nd pick
- Larry Nance Jr – 27th pick
- Anthony Brown – 34th pick
- Brandon Ingram – 2nd pick
- Ivica Zubac – 32nd pick
- Lonzo Ball – 2nd pick
- Tony Bradley – 28th pick
- Moritz Wagner – 25th pick
- Issak Bonga – 39th pick
- Sviatoslav Mykhailiuk – 47th pick
This is an amazing batting average.