EL SEGUNDO — The Lakers have seen rookie center Ivica Zubac soar to new heights, giving him a high ceiling for where his 7-foot-1, 240-pound frame will take him.
He became the first teenager in Lakers’ franchise history to have a double-double with at least 25 points in Monday’s loss to Denver. He has posted four double doubles this season. And on a team that has experienced various lineup switches in recent days, he remains the definitive starter for when the Lakers (20-48) host the Milwaukee Bucks (33-34) on Friday at Staples Center.
A significant thing slowed him down, though, during Wednesday’s loss in Houston. He made less of an impact with his production (two points on 1-of-2 shooting, two rebounds) than drawing whistles (four fouls) in only 11 minutes.
“It was a challenge to stay out of foul trouble,” Zubac said. “Some of the calls, I don’t know if they were called. I didn’t have a chance to showcase my skill and help the team win.”
That marked one of the learning curves the Croatian center has faced during his rookie season. He has shown marked improvement when accounting for the number of fouls he has averaged with the D-Fenders (3.4 in 30.1 minutes through 14 games) and the Lakers (1.5 in 14.7 minutes through 31 appearances).
It’s hard sometimes when you’re a rookie,” Zubac said. “You get some calls. You have to play as hard as you can and try to help the team on defense. You cannot change what they’re going to call or not. You have to give 100 percent.”
For Zubac to give 100 percent, Lakers coach Luke Walton wants him to find a better balance.
“He has a great feel for the game. We want to give him a little freedom on his shot blocking,” Walton said. “But a lot of that stuff he has to go up vertical, [put] two hands in the air, and even if he doesn’t get that block, he’s a big body. Make the guards finish over him. But he loves to reach down and try to get those blocks. That’s where referees call fouls on him.”