NBA

Lakers News: Ivica Zubac replacing Timofey Mozgov as starting center next season

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

Los Angeles Lakers center Ivica Zubac aims to improve his game and physique in the upcoming offseason. The 19-year-old Croatian believes that he’s ready to become the Lakers starting center next season. Can Zubac steal the starting role from Timofey Mozgov?

Last summer, the Lakers decided to address their need at the center position. They signed Timofey Mozgov to a four-year, $64 million contract and drafted Ivica Zubac in the second round of the 2016 NBA draft. Mozgov immediately became the Lakers starting center while Zubac spent the earlier part of the season with the Los Angeles D-Fenders.

With the Lakers headed into another disappointing season, coach Luke Walton shifted their focus to the development of their young core. The Lakers included Mozgov in the list of veterans they decided to shut down. This gave Zubac the opportunity to prove himself where he eventually ended up as the Lakers starting center.

Ivica Zubac confident to be the Lakers starting center next season

Zubac managed to impress on both ends of the floor whenever Walton gave him the chance to play. With his improvements, some people believe that his better than Timofey Mozgov, who almost non-existent on the defensive end this season. Zubac remains optimistic that he can start next season, saying that all he needs to do is prove himself once again this summer.

“I always had confidence in myself. I always knew I can play on this level,” Zubac said. “The only concern was if I was going to get a chance. After I got my chance, I was confident and knew I was going to do well. I earned my opportunity. But they were the ones that believed in me and gave me a chance. So all I did was play my game.”

As of now, coach Luke Walton isn’t giving any hint whether Zubac can steal the starting role from Mozgov next season. The Lakers will use the upcoming offseason to evaluate their players and make personnel changes as they prepare for the 2017-18 NBA season.

Timofey Mozgov doesn’t think Ivica Zubac can start

Timofey Mozgov decided not to divulge anything about his exit interview with the Lakers. Mozgov was reportedly impressed with Zubac’s progress but doesn’t think he’s ready to be a starter next season.

“I think I did a good job, but Zu will come in here, why don’t you ask him?” Mozgov said although he’s not certain the rookie is ready to take his spot in the rotation. “I don’t think Zu is ready to be starting.”

Mozgov expressed his willingness to play for the Lakers next season and believes he’ll still earn the starting spot. In the upcoming offseason, he plans to improve his footwork and his finishing around the rim.

Photo courtesy: Ivica Zubac/Twitter

Video courtesy: Youtube/Johny Walker LA

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