Thursday, 21 January 2021

Croats in NBA: Ivica Zubac Records His First Double-Double of Season

January 21, 2021 - 23-year-old Ivica Zubac records his first double-double of the season in the Los Angeles Clippers' win against the Sacramento Kings on Wednesday night. 

Ivica Zubac played the best game of the season in the LA Clippers' 115:96 victory against Sacramento on Wednesday. 

The Croatian basketballer played 22 and a half minutes and achieved his first double-double of the season with 11 points and 12 rebounds. He hit four of five shots in play and all three free throws and even recorded one assist and one block.

“My teammates needed me, I jumped as I know how and tried to contribute in both directions,” Zubac said after the game.

He is no longer a starter this season and comes off the bench.  Thus, even though his minutes are almost the same, it can be seen in his numbers because he is scoring 1.8 points and 2.6 rebounds less than last season.


"I accepted it as a challenge. I have to be ready from the first minute when I enter the game. It's different than when you're a starter, but we all have to adjust. I'm doing what I can to help the team," Zubac said modestly explaining the difference in approach between the two roles. 

Teammate Paul George also praised the Croatian Clippers' player. 

"Zu doesn't know how dominant he can be. You forget how young he is, he's still a baby... it is very rare you find bigs his size in the league today. That is one of the advantages he has. He has to own being the biggest guy on the floor."

Kawhi Leonard was the Clippers' top scorer on Wednesday with 32 points, George scored 19 with 12 assists and seven rebounds, and De’Aaron Fox led the Kings with 25 points.


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Monday, 31 August 2020

Croats in NBA: Ivica Zubac and LA Clippers Advance to Semifinal Round

August 31, 2020 - The Los Angeles Clippers have advanced to the Western Conference semifinals after winning 111:97 in Game 6 of the series against the Dallas Mavericks. Croatian Ivica Zubac and the LA Angeles Clippers celebrated in the series 4:2.

This time, Dallas was not helped by the brilliant game of Luka Doncic, who led the Mavs with 38 points, nine rebounds, and nine assists. However, Doncic couldn’t act alone against Los Angeles, led by Kawhi Leonard scoring 33 points, 14 rebounds, seven assists, and five steals.

Croatian center Ivica Zubac was also brilliant with 15 points and 11 rebounds, and he also had the best +/- in the team of +32. Namely, +/- is a statistic that shows how much a particular team has made or lost with one player on the court. The Clippers were better than the Mavs by 32 points with Zubac on the floor.

Los Angeles immediately took a 7-0 lead at the start of the game, but Dallas quickly equalized and held on until the end of the half. Moreover, the Mavs finished the first quarter leading 34:29, but the Clippers proved better in the attack for a six-point lead by the end of the half.

It should be mentioned that Doncic was also without his best teammate and the team's second-best scorer Kristaps Porzingis, who is recovering from a ruptured meniscus in his right knee. The Slovene did not start well in the second half; the Clippers scored from all sides and quickly went ahead 23 points. However, Doncic and the Mavs did not give up. The great Doncic took matters into his own hands and practically independently reduced the Clippers' lead to six points with nine and a half minutes to go.

Kawhi Leonard then made it impossible for the Mavs to come back. Kawhi dominated in one-on-one situations from the halfway line. He shot over the guards, and when the Mavs finally decided to double-team him, the Clippers lead hit double digits, and Doncic could no longer act alone. Purely for comparison, Doncic had only two teammates who scored double-digits - Tim Hardaway Jr. (10 points with 4-15 shots in play) and Dorian Finney-Smith (16 points). On the other hand, in addition to Ivica Zubac, who played a key role, Leonard can thank Paul George, who added 15 points and nine rebounds, and Reggie Jackson played a big role from the bench with 14 points and five rebounds, of which he scored 12 in the last quarter.

The Clippers await the winner of the Utah-Denver series. Doncic and Dallas are going home after a superb season. 


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Tuesday, 19 November 2019

Croats in NBA: Bogdanovic Top Scorer for Jazz, Zubac Records Double-Double

November 19, 2019 - Croatian basketball player Bojan Bogdanovic was the best for the Utah Jazz in their defeat to the Minnesota Timberwolves on Monday night, while Ivica Zubac registered a double-double in the victory of his LA Clippers. Dario Saric's Phoenix Suns lost to the Boston Celtics.

The Utah Jazz lost to the Minnesota Timberwolves at 102:112 at home, with Bojan Bogdanovic playing 31 minutes and scoring 18 points (shots in play 7/17, three-pointer 3/7) to be the team's top scorer. He added six rebounds and two assists. Donovan Mitchell finished the game with 17 points and Rudy Gobert with 16 points and 14 rebounds.

Karl-Anthony Towns led the Timberwolves with 29 points, including seven three-pointers and 13 rebounds, while Jeff Teague added 21 points and 11 assists.

The LA Clippers celebrated against the Oklahoma City Thunder 90:88 at home, with Paul George scoring for the win 25.9 seconds before the final buzzer. 

Montrezl Harrell scored 28 points with 12 rebounds in the Clippers’ win, George added 18, and Zubac contributed 12 points (shots in play 4/8, three-pointers 0/1) and ten rebounds with one assist in 20 minutes on the court. This is his third double-double this season. Chris Paul was the best for Oklahoma with 22 points.

The Boston Celtics are back on a winning streak, defeating Dario Saric's Phoenix Suns 99:85 last night. The Croatian basketball player just missed a double-double, scoring nine points in 29 minutes on the court (shots in play 3/13, three-pointers 2/6) and recorded ten rebounds with three assists and two steals.

Jayson Tatum led Boston to victory with 26 points and 11 rebounds, Kemba Walker scored 19 points, while Devin Booker was the best for Phoenix scoring 20 points.

The Portland Trail Blazers lost to the Houston Rockets 132:108. James Harden and Russell Westbrook tallied 64 points. And while Harden scored 23 of his 36 total points in the first half, Westbrook nailed 15 of 28. In the second half, Westbrook registered 13 rebounds and ten assists, and Houston increased their winning streak to eight games.

CJ McCollum led the Trail Blazers with 25 points and Mario Hezonja scored one basket in nine minutes on the court and recorded five rebounds.

The New York Knicks defeated the Cleveland Cavaliers at 123:105. Julius Randle scored 30 points for the New York win, while Kevin Porter Jr. was the best for the Cavaliers with 18 points, who also just recorded their fourth consecutive loss. Ante Zizic contributed to his team victory with five points (shots in play 2/4) and six rebounds in 20 minutes on the court. 

In the Dallas Mavericks' 117:110 home win over the San Antonio Spurs last night, Luka Doncic reached his sixth triple-double of the season, scoring 42 points, 11 rebounds, and 12 assists.

Finney-Smith added 22 points for Dallas and Kristaps Porzingis 18 with ten rebounds. San Antonio's best was DeMar DeRozan, who finished with 36 points. Luka Samanic did not enter the game for San Antonio.

The Milwaukee Bucks outscored the Chicago Bulls 115:101. Giannis Antetokounmpo scored 33 points and recorded ten rebounds, while Dragan Bender did not enter the game.


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Wednesday, 6 November 2019

NBA Croatian Heritage Night to be Held at Madison Square Garden and Staples Center

November 6, 2019 - Croatian Heritage Night will be held during two different NBA games this season, at Madison Square Garden in New York and the Staples Center in Los Angeles. 

The NBA features a record number of Croatians this season, with seven taking the court to be exact. Thus, multiple times this season, we’ll find our players up against one another, which has prompted the creativity of certain teams. 

Namely, after the NY Knicks successfully hosted Croatian Heritage Night last season, which featured Klapa Astoria and folk dancing by Lindo when Mario Hezonja welcomed then Indiana Pacers’ star Bojan Bogdanovic, the NY club has announced the return of Croatian Heritage Night on November 18, 2019. 

“Join the New York Knicks for a Croatian Heritage Night on November 18th against the Cleveland Cavaliers and Ante Žižić! This offer provides special savings off of individual game tickets.

The first 300 purchasers from this link will receive a Croatian Heritage specialized t-shirt! After completing the simple checkout process, share your personal link with friends and family so they can join you at the game,” reads the description of the event,  which you can find more information about here

The LA Clippers have also caught the Croatian fever and announced their own Croatian Heritage Night after Christmas when Ivica Zubac faces the Croatia national team captain, Bojan Bogdanovic, and the Utah Jazz. 

“LA Clippers present Croatian Heritage Night: Saturday, December 28, 2019, vs. Utah Jazz at 7:30 PM. Order your tickets online, use promo code "CROATIAN", and receive a Commemorative Croatian Heritage Shirt. We look forward to seeing you at the game!”

Anyone interested in watching the Croatian clash at the Staples Centre next month can find more information here

The first Croatian Heritage Night hosted by the NY Knicks saw over 700 Croatians attend, so it'll be interesting to see what the new season brings. 

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Wednesday, 23 October 2019

From Citluk to the NBA: Story of Ivica Zubac

October 23, 2019 - The 22-year old Croatian basketball player Ivica Zubac dreamt of playing for the local Brotnja team in his hometown of Čitluk in front of 1,000 people, but that never became a reality. Today, a different dream turned into reality.

First, Zubac was drafted in June 2016 to the Los Angeles Lakers, but now he is a member of their rival, the Los Angeles Clippers, and is ready to take the NBA by storm. 

Many NBA fans hadn’t heard of Ivica Zubac before 23 June 2016 when the Lakers selected the 7'1" center as the 32nd pick in the Draft, but this season he should be the Clippers' starting center. 

Zubac grew up in Citluk, a small town in Bosnia and Herzegovina that is just east of the Croatian border. Even though he has duel citizenship, Zubac identifies 100 percent as a Croatian. 

"I live in the part of Bosnia-Herzegovina, where we are the only Croatians, and we are the proudest in the world," said Zubac for in February 2017. "Croatia means everything to us." 

At the age of 7, Zubac started practicing together with older kids up to age 15. Just like everyone from his town, he wanted to be just like Zoran Planinic, a former professional basketball player who played for the New Jersey Nets in the NBA and who happens to be Zubac’s second cousin on his father’s side. 

Soon enough, with a lot of practice, Zubac started playing really good and scoring 30 or 40 points per game for Brotnjo where he used to play as a youngster. His good performances didn’t go unnoticed as Cibona, a top Croatian League club, invited him to play in a tournament when he was 13. 

Zubac said in 2017: “So we went to a tournament in Hungary, and I didn't do much. I scored like two points in five games, and I was thinking, ‘Oh man, I didn't do good, they aren't going to take me.’ But then they called me for another tournament in the middle of the season and I played better. And then for another tournament, and I played better again. Then they asked me to move there and start high school in Croatia. 

When I started to play basketball, the gym in Citluk was always full of 1,000 people, and my only dream was to play in front of those people with Brotjo for the senior team.” 

Zubac didn’t start well as for his first two years, nobody paid attention to him. When he was 15, he started playing better. However, he had an injury and missed a year. He started slowly coming back at the age of 17 when Cibona loaned him to a Croatian First Division Team, Velika 

Gorica, where he averaged 16 or 17 points per game. He was brought back to Cibona on loan, but still didn’t play much. Unexpectedly, that summer came his arrival moment. 

Zubac explained two years ago: “I was supposed to be the backup center for the Croatian National Team at the Under 19 World Championships. But the expected starter got injured, and I started and played really good. I think I was the second or third scorer in the championships. We made it to the final and barely lost to the USA in overtime. After that, everybody knew. I realized, wow, I (really) can go to the NBA one day.” 

The following season, Cibona promised Zubac that he would play a lot, but he sprained his MCL and was out for two months. On his return, he didn’t play much, so he asked his agent to change the team, and in February 2016, Zubac joined Mega Leks in the Serbian League. A few months later, he entered the Draft, despite a lot of scouts telling him to stay one more year in Europe. 

“But I told my agent my dream was to play in the NBA, in the best league against the best players. I wanted to prove myself. And I didn't want to waste a year. A lot of things could happen. I could get injured, who knows? So I said I'm going to the NBA right now, as soon as they draft me,” Zubac said in 2017. 

Zubac was selected as the 32nd overall pick in the 2016 NBA draft by the Lakers. On 7 July, he signed with the Lakers and joined the team for the 2016 NBA Summer League. In his rookie season, he started only 11 games but managed to write his name in the history books. 

On 13 March 2017, in a 129-101 loss to the Denver Nuggets, Zubac became the youngest player in the Lakers history with 25 points in a double-double. That night at the age of 19, he scored 25 points and made 11 rebounds and achieved history, but Zubac still put his team first. 

“The record means nothing, I scored 25, but we lost by 30 points. It does not mean anything. I would score 5 points and contribute to a win than score 25 and lose”, Zubac said that night. 

Two weeks later, he was ruled out for the rest of the season with a high ankle sprain in his right ankle. The following season, Zubac had multiple assignments with the South Bay Lakers, the Lakers’ NBA G League affiliate, due to limited playing time in the regular season. 

In his last season for the Lakers, Zubac appeared in 33 games (12 starts), averaging career-highs in points (8.5), rebounds (4.9), field goal percentage (.580) and free-throw percentage (.864) in 15.6 minutes. 

However, the Croatian didn’t stick with Lakers for too long as the Clippers acquired him and forward Michael Beasley from Lakers in exchange for center Mike Muscala in February of this year. This season, Zubac should be the Clippers’ starting center and he already began the season on a positive note. In the last night’s opening game of the season, Zubac was a starter for the Clippers in their 112–102 win over his former team, Lakers. The Croatian had eight points on perfect 4/4 shooting in 10 minutes spent on the court.

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Sunday, 7 July 2019

Ivica Zubac Agrees to Extend Contract with LA Clippers

The 22-year-old Ivica Zubac will fight for the NBA title next season with the Los Angeles Clippers, after deciding to extend his contract with the Western Conference team to four years and $28 million.

The news was released by Adrian Wojnarowski on Saturday evening Croatian time, though it was anticipated, given that Zubac did not have an offer on the market. Since the Clippers also signed Kawhi Leonard and Paul George, they are a serious contender for the NBA title this season, reports Sportske Novosti on July 6, 2019. 

Thus, by signing the promising young Croatian representative, the Clippers have come one step closer to completing their team for the next season, as there are now ten players in the roster who can be seriously rotated.

Zubac moved to the Clippers in February after he was part of a trade deal that offered Zubac and Michael Beasley to the Clippers for Mike Muscala. The controversial move by Lakers’ president Magic Johnson was highly criticized by numerous analysts. 

This was especially true when the talent from Čitluk wasted no time fitting into Doc Rivers’ squad, where he was given 20.2 minutes per game and gave Rivers a 'thank you' in return by scoring an average of 9.4 points, with 53.8 percent of shots in play and 7.7 rebounds. 

Although he had fewer minutes in the playoffs, and ultimately fell out of the rotation after the third game in the series against the Warriors as Rivers was forced to play with a different composition for better matchups, it did not mean that the Clippers lost faith in their starting center, which is confirmed by this contract. 

Zubac’s new payday is surpassed only by Croatian NBA players Bojan Bogdanović, who will make over $73 million for four years at Utah Jazz, and Toni Kukoč, who in 2000 signed a four-year deal with Philadelphia for $29 million and in 1994 signed with Chicago for six years at $26 million.

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Wednesday, 27 March 2019

Croats in NBA: Zubac, Clippers Clinch Playoff Spot After Defeating Šarić's Wolves

Ivica Zubac and his Los Angeles Clippers have moved into 5th place in the NBA's Western Conference, which secures them a spot in the playoffs. 

Saturday, 16 March 2019

Croats in NBA: Clippers Thank Lakers for Ivica Zubac Trade

The Los Angeles Clippers can thank the Los Angeles Lakers for last month's trade of Ivica Zubac - they can’t believe just how good things worked out. 

Tuesday, 5 March 2019

Croats in NBA: Zubac Faces Lakers For First Time as Clipper, Welcomed by Fans

Ivica Zubac played a part in the Clippers win against the Lakers in the LA Derby and received an ovation from the home fans. 

Sunday, 10 February 2019

Ivica Zubac Makes Thrilling Debut for LA Clippers

Ivica Zubac made the Los Angeles Lakers realize what silly mistake they made by trading him for the LA Clippers this week after a thrilling debut for his new club.