The Los Angeles Lakers have dealt with a ton of injuries throughout this season as the likes of LeBron James, Rajon Rondo and Lonzo Ball have missed significant time while numerous others have had minor issues keep them out.
This has forced head coach Luke Walton to turn to other players on his bench and none have taken more advantage of their opportunity than Ivica Zubac. After a disappointing second season, very little was expected of Zubac this year.
And when the Lakers brought in Tyson Chandler, it seemed like he would be stuck on the bench, but he has turned into a huge contributor. Zubac has especially stepped up over the last five games, averaging 19 points and 9.4 rebounds while shooting 66.1 percent from the field and 91.3 percent from the free throw line.
Rondo hasn’t been surprised by the big man’s performance.“He’s getting time. Time, confidence, the ability, I’m raving about him every day in practice,” Rondo said following the Lakers win over the Phoenix Suns.
“He has a lot of potential. Like I said, he’s so young, he’s still learning the game. He (already) has a great feel for the game.”
Walton noted the work Zubac has been putting in since the summer. “We saw him working this hard in the offseason. Unfortunately, he fell behind early in the season,” Walton said.
“He’s done a nice job of continuing to work and take advantage of opportunities. You get little chances here and there and you have to show your coaches you deserve more, and he’s done a really nice job of that.”
Zubac’s play has created a logjam for the Lakers at center as finding minutes for him, Chandler, and JaVale McGee is tough. It’s also landed him in Anthony Davis trade speculation. In the meantime, Walton seems set to continue rewarding Zubac for his great play.
“Every time we play him, he keeps playing at a high level. Give him all the credit,” Walton said. “He’s a big part of us winning tonight but also being able to pull together some wins during this stretch where everyone has been hurt or getting hurt.”
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