It’s been a surprisingly rough start to the season for LA Clippers center Ivica Zubac. Coming into the season, with Montrezl Harrell departing, it looked like the Croatian would be in line for major minutes and a big step up in his progression to becoming a dominant big man in the NBA.
But his stats for the season have been either roughly equivalent or worse than his numbers last season. With free agent signing Serge Ibaka joining up and getting the Clippers off to a strong start each night, Zubac has shifted to a second-unit player this season and aside from the occasional block or slam dunk after running the lane, he was largely anonymous to start the campaign.
Perhaps his performance in Wednesday’s 115-96 win over the Sacramento Kings at Staples Center represents a shift in his fortunes, however. Zubac played over 22 minutes on the night, eight more minutes than his season average this season, and he scored 11 points to go with 12 rebounds.
While he started the season with several games scoring in double digits, his points had gone down of late, and the 12 rebounds were by far his season high. On a team where he’s essentially counted on to be the main volume rebounder, his slump was becoming worrisome.
Zubac knows he needs to do more in grabbing boards, too, telling reporters after the game, “That should be me every night.”
“That’s one of my roles is rebounding the ball and not giving up offensive boards and I feel like I can be one of the best in the league at that, I just gotta bring energy, gotta box out on every possession and I felt like I didn’t do a great job with it to start the season, but I think I’m getting better at it and I’ma try to help the team on the boards every night,” he continued.
Kawhi Leonard praised his teammate for working hard even with the shift in his role for the team this season.
“You know he’s still in the game, his mind is still in it, even though he’s coming off the bench this year,” said Leonard. “He’s been coming in with high energy still, still the same character, and, you know, I appreciate that from him. You know a lot of guys get down when they lose their starting position but you know he’s all about winning.”
If the Clippers are to go far this season and ultimately consider this go-round a success, they are almost certainly going to need more Zubac like he was on Wednesday on a regular basis.
Here’s more news for your Thursday:
- Sexton, Cavs outlast Brooklyn’s triple threat: The Brooklyn Nets lined up with their three stars together for the first time Wednesday, but Collin Sexton and the Cleveland Cavaliers beat them in double OT.
- Another Wiz game postponed: The Washington Wizards had their sixth straight game postponed due to coronavirus, and star Bradley Beal spoke up to express his displeasure at what he thought was the NBA trying to get the Wizards back on the court before it was safe to do so.
- No hugging! The NBA is trying to crack down on players on opposing teams shaking hands and hugging on game nights (gasp!) to stop the spread of coronavirus and are literally putting security on the floor now to stop everyone from touching. Well, except for the 48 minutes of game action when players constantly collide and sweat all over each other, I guess.
- No Clippers in MVP race right now: Paul George has started the season very well, and Kawhi is playing at his usual high clip, but no Clippers players were part of this MVP tiers list on ESPN.
- Feature on future NBA head coach Hammon: Becky Hammon is becoming a household name, but before the San Antonio Spurs assistant coach gets her first NBA head coaching job, Chris Kamrani at The Athletic profiles the trailblazer at this point in her career.