Originally the No. 32 pick in the 2016 NBA Draft, Ivica Zubac has seen limited minutes since a solid rookie season where he averaged 7.5 points and 4.2 rebounds.
With JaVale McGee missing the last four games to flu-like symptoms, an upper respiratory infection and pneumonia, and Tyson Chandler missing the Memphis Grizzlies game due to back spasms, Zubac has taken advantage of his opportunity.
In two starts against the New Orleans Pelicans and Grizzlies, the 21-year-old averaged 17.5 points and 7.5 rebounds. “Basically like the last game. I was playing off LeBron and my teammates,” Zubac said after another strong performance.
“They were setting screens, and LeBron was getting deep in the paint and my guy had to help so he would serve the ball to me and I would just have to finish it.”
As for Zubac’s role moving forward, head coach Luke Walton was noncommittal since he is unsure how long McGee and Chandler will be out. “We’ll figure that out when we get there. We don’t know when JaVale will be back, we don’t know when Tyson’s back gets better,” Walton noted.
“He’s definitely done a great job for us and I think he’s earned the trust of his teammates and coaching staff. It’s nice to have that going for us right now with all the injuries and illness we have.”
Since Walton became the head coach prior to the 2016-17 NBA season, he has preached players staying ready in these types of situations. Despite only appearing in 11 of the Lakers’ first 31 games, Zubac deserves plenty of credit for how he has performed under the circumstances.
As the Lakers travel to face the Golden State Warriors on Christmas Day, it is unclear if McGee or Chandler will play. If they are unable to, Walton and company can trust Zubac to finish around the rim and be a capable rim protector.
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