LAS VEGAS — The crowd went abuzz over Ivica Zubac, and this time the roars had nothing to do with his blocks or his infectious energy. Instead, the Lakers’ rookie center experienced his first rude awakening in the NBA after Bosian-born 19-year-old played overseas in Croatia.
Philadelphia forward Jerami Grant drove baseline and leaped over the 7-foot-1, 240-pound center in the Lakers’ eventual 70-69 victory over the Sixers on Saturday at Thomas & Mack Center. The act did not just put Zubac on his first poster. Grant also made the incident extra humiliating after curling his right leg over Zubac’s head to avoid any contact.
“We don’t have that in Europe. I thought he was going to make a pump fake,” Zubac said. “I didn’t jump. Then he jumped on me.”
A reporter then informed Zubac that his Wikipedia entry indicated that he “died” from the experience.
“I did a little bit,” Zubac said.
Perhaps deflated might be the more accurate feeling. Yet, Lakers forward Larry Nance Jr. quickly lifted Zubac’s spirits. Nance promised Zubac that he will “get him back for you.” Shortly afterwards, Nance threw down two one-handed dunks both against Sixers forward Christian Wood.
“That’s my center,” Nance said. “I got his back.”
Nance showed his support in another way. After telling Zubac not to worry about Grant’s dunk over him, Nance advised Zubac how to respond the next time a similar play happens.
“Make your presence felt,” Nance said. “Nothing dirty, but make sure he knows you’re there.”
Zubac still made the Sixers know he was there with seven points, eight rebounds and a block. But after picking up five fouls and allowing a dunk, Zubac simply described his play as “okay” and “just solid.”
But that hardly wiped away Zubac’s infectious enthusiasm for the Lakers, or his eagerness to learn from his first NBA rookie moment.
Said Zubac: “I’m good.”
Follow L.A. Daily News Lakers beat writer Mark Medina on Twitter and on Facebook. E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org