- Ivica Zubac witnessed it all this season. From the Lakers' dysfunction in year one of the LeBron era to helping the Clippers reach the NBA playoffs. The Crossover spoke with Zubac about his growth, free agency hopes for Los Angeles and more.
Few players were in a more intriguing situation in 2018-19 than Ivica Zubac. The third-year center started the season with the Lakers, averaging 15.6 minutes per game as Los Angeles squandered year one of the LeBron James era. A midseason trade sent Zubac across the hall at the Staples Center and into the Clippers’ locker room, upping his minutes as Doc Rivers and Co. snagged the No. 8 seed in the West.
Zubac shined with his new Los Angeles squad, earning a sizable spot in the Clippers’ rotation before the Warriors ended his season in the first round of the West playoffs. With a successful third year in the books, Zubac is now in the Philippines, helping run the Jr. NBA Singapore 2019 National Training Camp.
The Crossover spoke with Zubac about his growth with the Clippers, Los Angeles' free agency chances and his relationship with Metta World Peace.
Michael Shapiro: So you’re in Singapore now teaching basketball to kids, what’s been your favorite part of the program?
Ivica Zubac: It’s been fun to see people playing basketball all over the world and enjoy playing and learning, and these kids have been great. I remember learning how to play when I was a kid, and watching kids do the same thing is great.
MS: Kids today can consume the NBA fairly easily via the internet. When did you start to watch the NBA as a kid, who were your favorite players?
IZ: I started to become a big NBA fan when I was 10 or 11 years old, I’d watch the games when they’d come on our TV. I was a big Lakers fan so I always watched Kobe and I watched Tim Duncan, too. I was a bigger guy so I always tried to play like [Duncan], even when they beat the Lakers.
MS: Is there anyone you watched as a kid that you play with now or played against?
IZ: Oh there are so many guys. I played with Metta World Peace my rookie year and he was so great to me. He taught me how to be a player in this league, how to practice. People always think of him a certain way, they say he’s crazy or whatever, but Metta has always been so helpful. I still can talk to him today.
MS: You were a Lakers fan growing up and played for your favorite team. Was it a difficult adjustment when you got traded to the Clippers?
IZ: It was hard at first. I was a bit sad leaving the team that drafted me, that I liked. But the people with the Clippers and coach [Doc] Rivers made things easy for me and I could fit in well pretty quickly.
MS: What excites you most about the future for the Clippers?
IZ: We really have a lot of guys who play hard, we play well together. We played a team that can win the championship again very tough. We played as tough as anyone. We are young and I think a lot of our guys can keep getting better. I’m excited for how we can do next year.
MS: Do you think the Clippers are an attractive destination for free agents?
IZ: We think we are. We’re a team that’s getting better and we have a good thing going. I don’t see why we wouldn’t be a good choice for guys.
MS: Do you think your former team the Lakers will rebound next season?
IZ: I would think so. With one of the best players like LeBron you always think you will be good. They can get free agents too, and will get healthier. So we will see, but with LeBron that is a good start.
MS: What are you up to the rest of the summer? What are your plans?
IZ: I’ll be here [in Singapore] a bit longer than back to work this summer. I want to get stronger and improve my game, shoot threes more than I did last season. I’m already excited for next year to get started.