Nobody realizes how good Ivica Zubac is for Clippers, but Zu doesn’t care

Ivica Zubac, LA Clippers. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports
Ivica Zubac, LA Clippers. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports /

Ivica Zubac has taken major strides in his strong development this year for the LA Clippers.

He’s particularly been tremendous on defense, but isn’t getting the recognition league-wide that some of these other seven-foot centers who play great defense are. In fact, Zubac is averaging a career-high 1.1 blocks per game on a team that doesn’t even play centers nearly as much as the majority of teams around the league. On a small ball team, Zubac is making his mark on this defense despite his services only being needed for 25 minutes per game.

Zubac made it clear after the game, however, that he doesn’t care. A reporter asked him about it, bringing up how he doesn’t get the recognition that Rudy Gobert and Myles Turner get for their rim protection. Zu gave a great answer.

LA Clippers’ center Ivica Zubac’s answer to this question was perfect for so many reasons.

First, Ivica Zubac pointed out that while he isn’t blocking as many shots for the LA Clippers as Gobert (2.2 per game) and Turner (2.8 per game) are for their teams, blocks aren’t everything. And that’s true. Zubac passes the eye test as a defensive center for sure.

In fact, the reporter brought up the fact that the Clippers are in the top five of the NBA in rim protection. Simply counting more blocks that Turner and Gobert have over Zubac is clearly not examining the full story.

Also, let’s not forget that part of the reason Zubac was asked this is because he rejected four shots in one game in the contest that took place just before the conference. Not only did he reject four shots against the Phoenix Suns in a dominant victory, but there was something that doesn’t show up in the box score that Zu always does so well against the Suns. It’s Zubac’s pick-and-roll defense on Chris Paul.

He did a great job defending it in the Western Conference Finals, and the team really struggled when Zubac ended up missing the end of the series. He killed it again on Monday night. LA Clippers reporter Justin Russo also pointed out that Paul has shot at a 25.6% rate (11 of 43) while both players are on the court at the same time.

Again, Zubac knows he doesn’t have the blocks that some of these other guys have.

But he does find ways to contribute that don’t always show up on the stat sheet, and I like that he acknowledged that. He absolutely does change a lot of shots at the rim, regardless of if they are “blocks” or not. He contests everything that comes in the paint, and teams aren’t having a lot of success scoring on our team.

They have the fourth-best defensive rating at 104.7, and Zubac has played a major role in it.

But I also loved how Zubac doesn’t care. That was another great part of his answer, because it’s exactly how he’s got to this point.

He stayed humble, and kept his head down to put himself in position to be recognized for his level of defense. He clearly knows that it’s a strategy he should stick to. He’s never been an arrogant player, and it’s clearly done great things for him.

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As long as ‘Zublocka’ continues to stay humble and grind the way he has to continue getting better this season, he’s going to be just fine. Whether he’s recognized or not, Zubac has been one of the most valuable performers for Clip City this season.