The overhaul of the Los Angeles Lakers not only signaled a new direction for the franchise, but also a culture to abide by. The duo of Magic Johnson and Rob Pelinka have thus far put new pieces of place in the organization, such as new Director of Strength and Endurance Training Gunnar Peterson.
Peterson has known both Pelinka and Johnson for quite some time, with a pedigree through both Johnson’s first hand experience and Pelinka’s former NBA clients. After being hired on May 24, Peterson understood that his main focus resided with the Lakers, helping this young core elevate their talents to the next level.
He sat down for an interview with Lakers reporter Mike Trudell, as an introduction and brief glimpse into some of his goals with the team. Peterson took a special look towards center Ivica Zubac, stating he needs to work on his lateral quickness and bursts moving forward:
I’m always going to look for explosive movement. At his size, can he not get smoked and be left standing there? You don’t want somebody to do that to you. So, first-step quickness. Keep him strong down low and keep his confidence up. It’s not forgiving out on the court. Nobody’s going to (take it easy on him) as a 19-year-old. To me, the goal is to keep him strong and let him know that he is strong. Keep him capable and let him feel capable, and always shore up the weakness.
The 20-year-old had an eventful rookie season with the Lakers, going from the D-League, to meaningful minutes in the regular season, to an unfortunate ankle injury that ended his season prematurely. However, Zubac also showed immense signs of growth on the floor, while also exuding a team-first mentality.
Peterson also addressed the smaller lineups and up-tempo pace, specifically about Zubac switching onto smaller guards. When it comes to defensive switches, Peterson wants Zubac to improve by working with resistance training:
We’ll do a lot of resisted runs laterally in all directions. A lot of steps and opening up his body, so if he’s in the center of a clock face with 12 straight ahead, I’ll have him open up to 4, 5, 7 and 8 so he can get that movement and feel comfortable in that transverse plane of motion. And I’m a big fan of doing it all against resistance, whether it’s a resisted run trainer, manual resistance against a band or whatever, so that when he’s able to break free on a court, he’s unencumbered.
Throughout the 38 games played during his rookie season, Zubac demonstrated a strong skill set, including soft hands, strong post moves and the ability to affect shots at the rim. Some of these intangibles are hard to come by, with Pelinka stating he is one of the pillars of the future.
While the 7’1″ center certainly needs to work on developing muscle during the offseason, Peterson also wants to help his explosiveness on the defensive end. Although Zubac is currently improving his three-point shot against Larry Nance Jr., expect to see improvements in his overall game under the guidance of Peterson.