That Los Angeles Lakers president of basketball operations Magic Johnson and general manager would make at least one trade prior to the deadline was all but assured. They’d done so in each of the previous two seasons they were at the helm come the deadline.
The bulk of their efforts this year appeared to lie with the pursuit of an Anthony Davis trade. Though, the New Orleans Pelicans continued to rebuff proposals from the Lakers, who ultimately pivoted and completed two minor trades.
The first was to send Svi Mykhailiuk and a future second-round draft pick to the Detroit Pistons in exchange for Reggie Bullock. Then just over 30 minutes before the Feb. 7 trade deadline, the Lakers sent Michael Beasley and Ivica Zubac to the L.A. Clippers for Mike Muscala.
Monday marks the first meeting between the teams since the trade, which Zubac is looking forward to, per Mirjam Swanson of the Southern California News Group:
“I can’t wait; I’m motivated,” the 21-year-old starting center said. “They’re a dangerous team, they’re fighting for playoffs and this is a big game, one of the biggest games of the season for them, so we gotta come out ready, focused. We gotta play smart, we gotta know what we want to do, take away their things and we’ll be good.”
The Lakers trading the 21-year-old center caught many by surprise, including Zubac himself and Clippers head coach Doc Rivers. Zubac has kept tabs on the struggling Lakers in the time since, and felt he could have made an impact for them:
“I’ve been watching almost every game,” Zubac continued. “I feel like every time I watch them, I’m like, ‘If I was there, I would help them. I would definitely make a difference on the floor,’ you know? But they’re not my team anymore.”
Zubac averaged 8.5 points and 4.9 rebounds in 33 games (12 starts) for the Lakers. He averaged 11.0 points, 7.2 rebounds and 1.0 blocks over 22.6 minutes per game in six consecutive starts before he was traded.
The deal reportedly was completed in some part due to JaVale McGee’s frustration over losing his starting job. There also was said to be consideration within the Lakers front office that they were likely to lose Zubac in free agency this summer.
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