Lakers’ Ivica Zubac: ‘I think I can play against every center in this league’

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PHOTOGRAPH: Ivica Zubac/Twitter | Ivica Zubac and Lakers president of basketball operations Magic Johnson

Ivica Zubac continues to show improvements in his rookie season with the Los Angeles Lakers. With his nearing inclusion in the starting lineup, the 19-year-old Croatian big man believes that he’s ready to play against every center in the league.

“I would like to play against starters,” Zubac said. “Just play my game and try to keep myself out of foul trouble, play hard. I think I can play against every center in this league. Just want to prove myself I’m in the best league in the world for a reason.”

Ivica Zubac, the 32nd overall pick in the 2016 NBA draft, wasn’t part of the Lakers’ rotation earlier this season. He used his time playing with the Los Angeles D-Fenders, the Lakers’ D-League affiliate, to improve his game and physique. On Nov. 2, Zubac made his NBA debut and showed his potential to be part of the Lakers’ long-term plan.

After a minimal exposure on the first half of the season, Zubac slowly became an official part of the Lakers’ rotation. In 28 games he has played this season, Zubac already posted three double-doubles and scored double figures seven times. Coach Luke Walton revealed that they plan to use the final months of the season to prioritize the development of their young players.

The departure of Lou Williams, Marcelo Huertas, and Jose Calderon gave the young backcourt players like D’Angelo Russell and Jordan Clarkson more playing time. When Timofey Mozgov and Luol Deng were demoted to the bench, most people expected Ivica Zubac and Brandon Ingram to be part of the starting lineup. However, Walton decided to move Ingram and Tarik Black first but revealed that he would like to put Zubac in the starting lineup.

Zubac only started once this season when the Lakers faced the Atlanta Hawks. He admitted that his matchup with Dwight Howard helped him boost his confidence.

“Now I’m ready to play against everybody,” Zubac said. “I’ve been through worse in my first start in the season, so I think I’m prepared for everything.”

Ivica Zubac shows shooting skills against Phoenix Suns

After being sidelined for two games, Ivica Zubac managed to play in the Lakers’ 112-110 victory over the Phoenix Suns. He showed his mid-range jumper where he shot 53.8 percent from the field.

“I could shoot since I know myself,” Zubac said. “You saw in the D-League I was shooting (3-pointers). I can do it. I can shoot it outside. It’s just a matter if I’m going to get the ball there or if the guards are going to guard me high or zone down there. When I get my chance, if I’m wide open for a three or the guy is in the middle of the paint, I will let it fly.”

Zubac plans to show more of his shooting skills in their succeeding games. With his improvements, coach Luke Walton may consider putting him in the starting lineup soon.

Photo courtesy: @ivicazubac/Twitter

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