Los Angeles Lakers seven-footer Ivica Zubac stayed after practice on Wednesday, working with consultant Bill Bertka and a couple of members of the coaching staff, nothing out of the ordinary for the 19-year old rookie who’s been working with Bertka on developing that skyhook since he was drafted with the 32nd pick in the 2016 NBA draft.
This time, though, Lakers general manager Mitch Kupchak was also watching over, alternating between leaning on the basketball stanchion and teetering with his arms crossed over his chest, overlooking the young prospect as he worked on post drills, skyhooks, free throws and passing from the high post.
All the while, head coach Luke Walton was giving his standard media scrum after a normal day at practice, before hopping on a plane to Portland, for a quick trip to play the Trail Blazers on Thursday.
Walton looked behind him as reporters asked about what Kupchak was teaching Zubac.
“I don’t know,” Walton paused. “I saw Mitch was showing him (Zubac) old footage of when Mitch played at North Carolina earlier today…”
Then, Walton’s smile got bigger as he seized an opportunity to garner a few laughs.
“Really old, old black and white footage,” Walton smirked referring to Kupchak playing for the Tar Heels from 1972-76. “So I’m not sure what they’re working on, but I know Bertka has been working with him on his skyhook since he got here. It’s kinda good to see he’s gotten pretty good at it.”
Walton then continued, in a more serious tone.
“We all think he’s going to be a big part of our franchise in the future, he’s got a unique skill set. He’s a big that has great touch, he’s got good timing on the floor, obviously has a lot to learn, at the age of 19, living and playing in a different country, but we’re all fascinated with what he can be.”
Zubac won’t travel with the Lakers to Portland, as he’s been re-assigned to the D-Fenders, the Los Angeles Lakers D-League affiliate, where he is averaging 16.6 points and 9.5 rebounds in his 10 games played.
The plan for Zubac has always been to use the D-Fenders as a way for him to gain experience and hone his skills while keeping his body in healthy conditioning shape. Expect that plan for Zubac to continue, as he splits his time between on-court experience with the D-Fenders and NBA and experience with the Lakers.