LAS VEGAS — The crowd roared into a frenzy as they saw how those long and outstretched arms performed something magical.
Only eight minutes into his first NBA Summer League game, 19-year-old Bosnian born center Ivica Zubac threw out his arm to swat a shot. Six seconds later, Zubac did the exact same thing.
Lakers fans may have never heard of the 7-foot-1, 240-pound rookie center until the Lakers drafted him No. 32 overall nearly two weeks ago. But it did not take long for them to fall in love with him during the Lakers’ 85-65 victory over the New Orleans Pelicans in Summer League play on Friday at the Thomas & Mack Center. So much that as Zubac collected 11 points on 3-of-4 shooting, five rebounds and three blocks, several of the fans chanted “Zu Block.”
Apparently, that is a nickname Zubac both endorsed and already had.
“My old teammates gave me that nickname,” Zubac said. “When I separated ways from them, that nickname was forgotten.”
Still, it wasn’t clear if Zubac said “Zu Block” or “Zu Blocka.” Either way, more clarity on his nickname could emerge when the Lakers play against the Philadelphia 76ers on Saturday at Thomas & Mack Center.
Lakers forward Larry Nance Jr. had already likened Zubac to former NBA blocking specialist Dikembe Mutombo. Lakers point guard D’Angelo Russell already referred to Zubac as “Big Z” and compared him to Memphis center Marc Gasol. Lakers summer league coach Jesse Mermuys affectionately called Zubac “the big fella.”
“A big fella with some sweetness to him,” Russell clarified. “He’s really good. I don’t think people know how good he is yet.”