Ever since Ivica Zubac was drafted early in the second round by the Lakers, he has been a fan-favorite. Not long after declaring his childhood fandom of the purple and gold in his draft day interview, Zubac surprised many people with just how effective he was in Summer League play. The 19-year-old averaged 10.6 points on 64.7 percent shooting, 7.2 rebounds and 2.6 blocks during his time in Las Vegas back in July, sparking plenty of optimism in regards to what his impact for the Lakers could be.
Once summer league concluded, the focus shifted to the Lakers’ first training camp under head coach Luke Walton, which starts in just under two weeks, followed quickly by the team’s first preseason game on October 4th.
With camp rapidly approaching, Zubac seems to have the right mindset heading into his first NBA season. “I’ve never been at training camp so I don't know what to expect,” Zubac told Mike Bresnahan of Time Warner Cable SportsNet. “But I expect a lot of hard work and a lot of competitive practices and to get better.”
The Lakers will certainly have plenty of youth that will likely have to endure growing pains this season as they get accustomed to all of the intricacies of the NBA. But as an international prospect entering his rookie season, Zubac in particular will have to adjust to a completely different style of play. While that can be a daunting task for someone so young, Zubac feels he’s prepared for the transition.
“I've been here since Summer League and working out every day so I'm ready. I'm in shape. I learned a lot of things. I'm working on my game and a lot of things I have to improve because it's different in Europe and I have to adjust. But it's getting better every day.”
When asked about the main differences between the style of play overseas and his time so far with Los Angeles, Zubac noted two aspects that any rookie will have to adjust to. “The speed was slower, definitely, and the spacing was, here the spacing is way better,” said Zubac. “That's been hard for me to learn about spacing but I think I learned it almost enough.”
Luckily for Zubac, he probably won’t be thrown into the fire right away in his rookie season, seeing as the team has brought in a slew of front court players that could take the bulk of the playing time this season. Minutes could be very limited for Zubac, especially early on, but the big man will be ready to protect the paint when his number gets called.
“Number one priority is defense. Definitely I want to help the team so when I get minutes so I can help,” said Zubac. “The most important thing is to bring out the energy and help out on defense. If I can do that, I'm going to be good.”
On the other end of the floor, Zubac wants to keep it simple and stay within himself. “On offense, I have to take what defense gives me and what teams give me. I shouldn't complicate it a lot and I think I'm going to be good if I do that.”
While expectations will likely be low out of the gate, the Lakers certainly hope Zubac can develop into a solid piece of the young core that has been build over the past few years. With a promising future seemingly in place, Zubac appears poised to be a part of the Lakers’ plans as well.
All quotes transcribed via Time Warner Cable SportsNet. You can follow this author on Twitter at @garykester.