LOS ANGELES- While snacking on a pregame sandwich at his locker, Los Angeles Lakers rookie center Ivica Zubac Ivica Zubac was blunt when asked if he had recovered from his marathon, two-games in one day performance on Saturday.
“No,” Zubac deadpanned, and while normally a line of four points, five rebounds, and two blocks wouldn’t lead to rave reviews, doing so in just under nine minutes in a single stint of playing time isn’t a normal situation.
That’s exactly what Zubac did in the team’s Sunday night loss to the Detroit Pistons, and his success was hardly a surprise to his teammates.
“He’s paying attention to detail. Every opportunity he gets he takes full advantage of it, and it’s definitely been good for him,” said Zubac’s fellow rookie Brandon Ingram.
Lakers head coach Luke Walton said the team has been trying to find minutes for Zubac because “he’s earned them” by “busting his butt doing the D-League and with us in practice.” He was impressed with what he saw in the minutes they found.
“It’s tough to stay locked in when you don’t think you’re going to play, but he was thrown out there and was following the game plan and made some nice little plays for us,” Walton said. “It was good to see him out there getting some real minutes against one of the league’s best centers and I thought he held his own.”
Lakers veteran Lou Williams was similarly impressed with Zubac’s ability to stay ready despite inconsistent minutes.
“I think he’s played well, man. Just for him to get thrown out there in two straight games and perform as well as he’s done, I think that’s promising,” Williams said.
One game net ratings should always be taken with a heavy dosage of salt, but Zubac posted the team’s best one (14.6) against the Pistons. If the Lakers continue to find minutes for him, Ingram won’t be surprised if he continues to produce like he did against Detroit.
“On the defensive and offensive end he’s shown he can be really good,” Ingram said. “He continues to work his butt off every single day.”
All quotes obtained firsthand, and all stats per NBA.com. and Basketball-Reference.com. Harrison Faigen is co-host of the Locked on Lakers podcast (subscribe here), and you can follow him on Twitter at @hmfaigen.