Monday’s game against the Denver Nuggets was one of the most embarrassing performances of the season as the Los Angeles Lakers were blown out from the outset. Probably the only promising performance came from rookie center Ivica Zubac.
The rookie set a new career-high with 25 points and also added 11 rebounds to become the first Lakers teenager to post a double-double with that many points.
With development being the focus for the Lakers for the rest of the season, Zubac will surely be getting a ton of minutes, and he discussed what he hopes to accomplish throughout the remainder of the year, via Mark Medina of the OC Register:
“I want to play as much as I can and play as hard as I can,” Zubac said. “I want to get experience and get ready for next season, to earn my role for the next season and try to grow with the young guys. It’s going to be good to get some playing time with the starting five for the rest of the season. I’ll try to make the most of my minutes.”
Head coach Luke Walton also notes that Zubac hasn’t played as many minutes as the rest of the young core, which could contribute to his level of play right now:
“He’s probably a little fresher than some of the other guys with the fact that he wasn’t playing big minutes and was out with the injuries for a couple of days there,” Walton said. “Zu is a very skilled player. It doesn’t surprise me when he has nights where he’s making shots.”
Walton believed that Zubac wasn’t quite ready to contribute early on this season, so he sent the rookie down to the D-League to work on his skills and also to get in better shape. The move paid off as Zubac has performed well for the most part since becoming a regular part of the rotation.
Zubac has proven that his name should be mentioned right next to guys like D’Angelo Russell and Brandon Ingram as building blocks for the Los Angeles Lakers. There is no doubt that he will get all the minutes he can handle down the stretch of this season, so it will be up to him to keep up his level of play.