Could a big change be coming to the starting lineup of the Los Angeles Clippers in the near future? If backup center Ivica Zubac continues to play at a high level while filling in for injured starter Serge Ibaka, Zubac could remain in the starting lineup — even after Ibaka is healthy again.
According to Mirjam Swanson of the Orange County Register, Clippers head coach Ty Lue admitted Friday that “there’s been thought” given to keeping Zubac in the starting lineup due to his recent red hot play. The 24-year-old center has been on a tear of late, averaging 11.9 points, 7.6 rebounds and 1.8 assists over his last 10 games, while also logging 26.2 minutes a game in relief of Ibaka.
Zubac is averaging 9.1 points a game on the season, and he is currently the Clippers’ leading rebounder. Considering Lue’s recent comments, it won’t be all that surprising if the Clips use Ibaka in a more limited role moving forward.
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Lue Gives Update on Ibaka’s Return
Ibaka has not played since mid-March, and he has been dealing with tightness in his back ever since. He recently started doing some light work on the court again, and Lue gave an update on his possible return on Friday.
“He’s progressing,” Lue said about the 31-year old veteran. “We’re not sure the timetable when he’ll be back, but that was his first time getting on the floor and actually doing some playing so that’s a good start.”
Recently dubbed an “Iron Man” by Lue due to his durability and reliability, Zubac currently leads the NBA in number of games played this season, and he may be coming into his own at just the right time for the Clippers.
Zubac is Running With His Opportunity
“I’m not the guy who cares about stats much,” Zubac told Sports Illustrated a few weeks back. “So just go out there and try to play, try to help the team win, whatever that means. Whether that means seven assists or zero assists, whatever, I’m going to do it.”
He has been doing a little bit of everything since taking over for Ibaka, and his teammates have noticed. “Personally I think he’s been fouled quite a bit this year, so for him to just go up there and make sure that there was no way, you know he’s gonna finish through contact, doesn’t matter if the foul’s getting called or not,” Clippers point guard Reggie Jackson said about Zubac.
“Zu is hooping,” Clippers guard Terance Mann added, per The Athletic. “He’s a pro, he’s a big-time pro now. I mean, he’s got years in the league. He’s only 24. And most of it’s himself. He’s ready. Locked in, wants to win. He’s out there being aggressive. Everybody’s motivating him, every time he does something good, everybody’s cheering him on. But a lot of it’s himself. You can see him growing, getting better. You can see him realizing he’s getting better.”
Now, he’s on the verge of taking the starting job away from Ibaka. Time will tell, but if he continues his stellar play, Zubac will be near-impossible to bench.