Clippers have been the Warriors’ toughest play-off test: Ivica Zubac
Zubac says his team have been the biggest obstacle so far to Golden State's quest to win their third straight NBA championship
A day before he was supposed to play against the Boston Celtics in February, Los Angeles Lakers' promising centre Ivica Zubac was told that he had been traded to rivals Los Angeles Clippers - with his first game just three days later.
Just moments after bidding goodbye to LeBron James and company, the 22-year-old had to adapt to the new environment quickly.
Zubac told The New Paper on the sidelines of the Jr. NBA Singapore 2019 national training camp at Heartbeat @ Bedok yesterday that the trade was initially a tough pill to swallow.
"It was tough. I worked with 12 teammates all year long, with the coach, physicians and strength coaches every day. And then just like that, I was traded and I'll never see them again," he said, with a snap of his fingers.
"Then I thought, I don't care which team it is, I'm going to play my game. I know what's my goal, which is to stay in the NBA (for) as long as I can and one day I want to be the best centre in the NBA.
"It doesn't matter if they trade me because that's how the NBA works. I'm just going to focus and play my hardest."
In his first game for the Clippers, after "one really short training", the 2.16m Croat contributed to their 123-112 comeback win against the Celtics from being 28 points down.
"It was a real Clipper way to start my Clipper career. They are all about hard work, fight and never giving up. That was a real example of it," he said.
The trade orchestrated by Lakers' former president of basketball operations Magic Johnson has been described as a mistake, as the 59-year-old swopped Zubac and Michael Beasley for Mike Muscala.
Last week, Johnson told ESPN sports journalist Stephen A. Smith on talk show First Take that "LeBron James and Lonzo Ball made Zubac better" and that he was "going to be a restricted free agent" which he had to exchange for "cap space for a superstar".
Zubac responded via a tweet with three laughing emojis.
He told TNP yesterday: "It was just funny him talking like that about me. I don't think we ever had any dramas.
"He was trying to defend a trade but some things he said were not true, so it was real funny to me."
He described his season at the Clippers as formidable, considering they met two-time defending champions Golden State Warriors in the first round of the Western Conference play-offs.
The Clippers lost the series 4-2.
"I think we gave them the hardest shot in the play-offs so far. But overall, in the regular season and the play-off push we made, it was great," he said, adding that he's confident that they will go further in next season's play-offs.
JR. NBA ASIA QUALIFIERS
Following the Jr. NBA national training camp - which was attended by 200 boys and girls aged 11 to 14 -five boys and five girls were selected to represent the nation at the Jr. NBA Asia Qualifiers in Jakarta next month.
There, they will compete with teams from China, Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines, Thailand and Vietnam to qualify for the global stage in Orlando, United States, in August.
The girls selected are Rachael Loo, Kerine Tan, Maeve Loo, Kayla Lim and Iris Yuen while the boys who made the cut are Tan Jing Yuan, Prasant Selvakumar, Soo Wei Jie, Lim Yi Heng and Jayson Tan.