Ivica Zubac

International Notes: Serbia, Bahamas, Gordon, Croatia

The Serbian national team has officially announced its 12-man roster for the 2023 World Cup, which tips off on Friday (Twitter link). The Serbians are missing star center Nikola Jokic, along with accomplished veteran guard Vasilije Micic, who made the move from the EuroLeague to the NBA this offseason.

However, the squad still features multiple current and former NBA players, starting with Hawks guard Bogdan Bogdanovic. Heat forward Nikola Jovic, Sixers big man Filip Petrusev, and former Grizzlies guard Marko Guduric are among the notable players representing Serbia at this year’s World Cup.

Here are a few more notes from around the international basketball world:

  • The Bahmas defeated Argentina on Sunday in the final of an Olympic pre-qualifying tournament, with Suns guard Eric Gordon scoring a game-high 27 points, writes Tim Bontemps of ESPN. Following the Bahamian victory, former NBA forward Andres Nocioni – who won an Olympic gold medal with Argentina in 2004 – questioned whether it was fair for FIBA to allow Gordon to suit up for the Bahamas despite representing Team USA earlier in his international career (Twitter link). “Let’s not lose the essence of international competitions,” Nocioni added in a follow-up tweet.
  • A Croatian team led by Warriors forward Dario Saric and Clippers center Ivica Zubac scored an upset victory over Alperen Sengun and Turkey in the final of another Olympic pre-qualifying tournament on Sunday, as Eurohoops details. Croatia, the Bahamas, Cameroon, Poland, and Bahrain won this month’s pre-qualifying tournament to secure spots in next year’s Olympic qualifiers.
  • Vangelis Papadimitriou of Eurohoops highlights a handful of non-U.S. NBA players who could be difference-makers in this year’s World Cup, including Canadian forward RJ Barrett and Dominican big man Karl-Anthony Towns.

Trade Rumors: Harden, Bulls, Zubac, Brogdon, Osman, Morris

There’s no urgency for the Sixers to complete a James Harden trade, ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski said Friday in an appearance on “Get Up” (video link). Even though Harden has asked to be dealt and seems to prefer the Clippers, Wojnarowski notes that the track record of president of basketball operations Daryl Morey suggests he’ll explore all available possibilities before committing to a deal.

“You may let free agency settle,” Wojnarowski said, “see where players land, see where needs arise for different teams that might not be interested today but could be in a few days. I don’t anticipate necessarily that this is going to be quick because it doesn’t have to.”

Andrew Greif of The Los Angeles Times also hears that a Harden trade may not happen right away. He cites league sources who said they’ll be watching how patient the Sixers decide to be and what they’ll be seeking in return. Greif names Terance Mann as a player the Clippers might be reluctant to include in a Harden deal.

There are more trade rumors to pass along:

  • The Bulls may be an option for Harden, sources tell Jake Fischer of Yahoo Sports. Chicago has already explored trade scenarios regarding Zach LaVine and might be willing to part with DeMar DeRozan to acquire Harden. Fischer also cautions that Morey has a lot of options to consider before deciding how to handle Harden’s trade request.
  • The Clippers, who would like to re-sign Mason Plumlee have let teams know that Ivica Zubac is available in a trade, Fischer adds. L.A. may also have interest in acquiring P.J. Tucker in a Harden deal, as Fischer notes that the Clippers previously reached out to him when he was a free agent.
  • The Clippers pulled out of an original version of the three-team Kristaps Porzingis trade because of medical concerns regarding Malcolm Brogdon, but they recently contacted the Celtics about Brogdon again, according to Fischer. L.A. was also willing to offer Norman Powell to the Wizards for Chris Paul before the Warriors landed him in exchange for Jordan Poole, Fischer states.
  • Fischer hears that the Cavaliers are engaged in trade talks regarding Cedi Osman and offered him to the Nets in a deal for Dorian Finney-Smith or Royce O’Neale.
  • Numerous teams have reached out to the Wizards about point guard Monte Morris, Fischer adds. The Timberwolves, Bulls, Pelicans, Jazz and Nets are all considered possibilities for Morris, and Fischer believes the Heat could be added to the list if they lose Gabe Vincent in free agency.

Pacific Notes: Covington, Zubac, Westbrook, Durant, Curry

Robert Covington has played sparingly the last six weeks and the Clippers forward believes he can be a defensive force if he gets back in the rotation, he told Law Murray of The Athletic.

“I bring a different thing to this team,” said Covington, who is signed through next season with the Clippers. “And it’s one of the things, one of the reasons why they brought me here. It’s being that disruptor on it. Being a disruptor off the ball. Seeing things and reading it right. Watching plays really develop, and just getting a knack for getting my hands on the basketball. Creating an opportunity for us on the defensive side and creating transition plays. And getting out and running.”

We have more from the Pacific Division:

  • Clippers center Ivica Zubac has been pleasantly surprised by what Russell Westbrook has brought to the team since Westbrook cleared waivers and signed as a free agent, Tomer Azarly of Clutch Points tweets. “Honestly, it’s way better than I thought it would be,” Zubac said. “He’s a great leader also, he’s very vocal, something we needed… He has a great attitude, always smiling, laughing, being very positive.”
  • The Suns have a renewed spirit since Kevin Durant joined the lineup, Duane Rankin of the Arizona Republic writes. The Suns are 3-0 with Durant in uniform and Phoenix once again has the look of a true contender. “Even in the postgame, a lot of people are saying we feel fresh. We play team basketball,” Devin Booker said.
  • The Warriors had a five-game winning streak halted by the Lakers on Sunday. Stephen Curry returned from a leg injury that sidelined him for 11 games and he knows their season could go in many different directions. “It’s weird to say, we’re still trying to win championships but we’re trying to avoid the play-in,” he said, per Kendra Andrews of ESPN. “Both can be true. … Until we get beat, we still feel we’re a tough matchup for anybody. That is the confidence we’ve got to have down the stretch.”

Norman Powell Sidelined With Left Shoulder Subluxation

The Clippers are missing several rotation regulars for their game on Friday in Sacramento, tweets Andrew Greif of The Los Angeles Times.

Forward Kawhi Leonard is out on the second of a back-to-back due to right knee injury management, forward Marcus Morris is out with an injured elbow, and center Ivica Zubac, who has missed three of the past four games with a strained right calf, remains sidelined.

The most noteworthy injury on the injury report is swingman Norman Powell, who was ruled out with a left shoulder subluxation — that’s the same injury that Stephen Curry sustained earlier this season, which caused him to miss 11 games (just under four weeks).

As Greif notes, Jeff Stotts of InStreetClothes.com wrote about shoulder subluxation at the time of Curry’s injury and stated that the average absence since the 2005/06 season for a player dealing with that issue is approximately 21 days.

The Clippers have stated that Powell will undergo treatment and therapy for at least the next week (Twitter link via Greif). At that point, the team should have a clearer sense of when he’ll be able to return to action.

Powell is L.A.’s third-leading scorer this season at 16.6 points per game, so he’ll certainly be missed. However, it’s possible his absence (and others) will help simplify some rotation decisions for Tyronn Lue, who is still determining how best to use the Clippers’ new-look roster after the team added Eric Gordon, Mason Plumlee, Bones Hyland, and Russell Westbrook in recent weeks.

Clippers Notes: Westbrook, Mann, Zubac, George

Scoring 175 points wasn’t enough for the Clippers to win Friday night, but their newly signed point guard looked right at home during the offensive display, writes Jim Alexander of The Orange County Register. Russell Westbrook posted 17 points and 14 assists in his first game with the team and received a standing ovation when he fouled out in the second overtime of the second-highest scoring game in NBA history.

Westbrook didn’t officially become a Clipper until after he cleared waivers on Wednesday following a buyout with the Jazz, so he had limited practice time to get familiar with his new teammates. Coach Tyronn Lue said Westbrook learned the basics of the team’s offense quickly and “he knew enough” to handle a starting role.

“Knowing (Paul George)’s plays, knowing Kawhi (Leonard)’s plays, that’s the most important thing,” Lue said. “So he picked those things up right away. There’s still a lot more that we can still incorporate and learn on the fly. But I thought he did a good job knowing the plays and knowing the play calls, and he did a good job with it.”

Westbrook welcomes the chance for a new opportunity after a frustrating season and a half with the Lakers. He didn’t mention his former team by name after Friday’s contest, but he alluded to having the Clippers’ veteran stars as advocates for signing him, per Ohm Youngmisuk of ESPN.

“Just the ability to be able to go out and compete,” Westbrook said when asked about his debut. “I think that’s something I don’t take for granted, being somewhere (and) given an opportunity to go play. Not just that, but the support of the organization, my teammates, the fans, overall, it’s a great debut but just didn’t get the win.”

There’s more on the Clippers:

  • Lue said the first game with Westbrook was a “learning” experience for him in regard to setting rotations, Youngmisuk tweets. Terance Mann only played 18 minutes, and Lue admitted that Mann wasn’t used enough.
  • Although the Clippers set a few scoring records Friday, they sometimes looked like a team whose key players haven’t played together very much, observes Andrew Greif of The Los Angeles Times. L.A. committed 25 turnovers, including four straight during a crucial fourth quarter stretch that allowed the Kings to tie the game.
  • Ivica Zubac missed Friday’s game with a strained right calf and is considered day-to-day, Greif tweets. Lue said George is on a minutes restriction, but there are no restrictions for Leonard or Westbrook.

Clippers Notes: Westbrook, George, Zubac, Hyland

The day after the trade deadline, star forward Paul George told reporters that he wanted Russell Westbrook to end up with the Clippers. Two weeks later, with Westbrook on the verge of making his Clippers debut, ESPN’s Brian Windhorst suggested on his Hoop Collective podcast that George’s advocacy for the former MVP was the driving force behind the team’s decision to sign him.

“From what I understand, they were internally against (signing Westbrook) at the start,” Windhorst said, per RealGM. “Paul pushed for it publicly and privately. Kawhi (Leonard) supported it. And they looked more into it and they were like ‘Well, you know, there are some things he can potentially help us with. One of the things that’s a factor for us is we tend to kind of get a little loaf-y.’ They talked themselves into it, is the long story short.”

Windhorst’s reporting doesn’t come as a real surprise — comments made by president of basketball operations Lawrence Frank after the trade deadline indicated he wasn’t initially targeting a player like Westbrook. Frank spoke about wanting a point guard who wouldn’t be very ball dominant and who has “got to be able to shoot.” Westbrook, a 29.6% three-point shooter this season, is at his best with the ball in his hands.

Still, as Windhorst alluded to, and as ESPN’s Zach Lowe writes in an Insider-only story, the Clippers only rank 20th in the NBA in drives this season and are tied for 23rd in shots at the rim. Plus, they have more shooting around Westbrook than the Lakers did, so there are reasons to believe the veteran’s fit could be better with L.A. other’s team.

Here’s more on the Clippers:

  • Ahead of Westbrook’s debut with the Clippers, Andrew Greif of The Los Angeles Times, Eric Pincus of Bleacher Report, and Jovan Buha and Law Murray of The Athletic all evaluated the 34-year-old’s potential fit and discussed whether or not they think the match will be a good one.
  • The Westbrook signing should be viewed as an endorsement for head coach Tyronn Lue and the Clippers’ stars, Murray writes for The Athletic. As Murray explains, the move signals that the front office is willing to listen to its players and trusts Lue to make the best decisions for the team.
  • The Clippers will be without starting center Ivica Zubac in their first game after the All-Star break on Friday due to a right calf strain, tweets Greif. The injury should open the door for recently acquired big man Mason Plumlee, who played 17 and 18 minutes in his first two games with the Clippers, to take on a bigger role.
  • Former Nuggets and current Clippers guard Bones Hyland repeatedly cited “miscommunication” as an issue that led to his exit from Denver, where he felt “kicked to the curb,” according to Ohm Youngmisuk of ESPN. So far though, communication hasn’t been a problem for Hyland with the Clippers, even though his playing time may take a hit following the addition of Westbrook. “I understand (Lue) has a good plan for me,” Hyland said. “I know he’s not just going to leave me in a desert, man, just by myself. … The first thing he did (after the Westbrook signing) was call me over and talk to me one-on-one. That’s something I respect about Ty Lue.”

L.A. Notes: AD, LeBron, Conley, Zubac, Clippers

Lakers big man Anthony Davis is expected to begin running on Monday, Shams Charania of The Athletic said in an appearance on FanDuel TV (Twitter video link). Charania adds that Davis will start contact work shortly after he starts running, and the Lakers hope the 29-year-old will return to the lineup in early February.

ESPN’s Dave McMenamin reported a week ago that the team was hopeful that Davis, who has been out since December 16 after suffering a stress reaction in the navicular bone in his right foot, could return return in a couple weeks. Based on Charania’s report, it sounds like that rough timeline may have been pushed back a little bit, but there’s no indication that Davis had a setback.

Here’s more out of Los Angeles:

  • Lakers star LeBron James is not trade-eligible this season after signing an extension in August. James recently turned 38 years old and is in his 20th NBA season, but he’s still playing at an extremely high level and would have a long list of suitors if he did ask for a trade in the offseason. With that in mind, David Aldridge of The Athletic comes up with six hypothetical trades and ranks the possibility of each deal, though he acknowledges that James ending his career with the Lakers is still the most likely outcome. The highest ranking trade on Aldridge’s “Possibility Scale” (5.5 out of 10) sends James to Atlanta for a package headlined by Dejounte Murray.
  • Marc Stein reported this morning that the Clippers are interested in Jazz point guard Mike Conley. According to Jake Fischer of Yahoo Sports (Twitter link), the Clippers’ interest in Conley is not new, as the team considered trading for the 35-year-old this past summer prior to signing John Wall.
  • Ivica Zubac‘s production has slipped in the past few weeks and Clippers coach Tyronn Lue is aware that the starting center is feeling the effects of a career-high 29.1 minutes per game, writes Janis Carr of The Orange County Register. “He’s not going to admit that, but you know, I think he’s getting worn down a little bit with the overuse and playing him a lot because like you said, when he is on the floor, we are effective,” Lue said. “We’re able to run our offense and do different things. So, I have to find a balance between that. He’s been great for us all year. He’s a guy that plays every single night and we just can’t run him into the ground, which I have, I think early on. But I mean, I really don’t have a choice.” Zubac averaged 10.3 points and 11 rebounds in his first 35 games (29.8 minutes), including 17 double-doubles, but he’s only posted one double-double in the past eight contests (26.1 minutes) while averaging 9.3 points and 7.3 boards.
  • The Clippers‘ depth was supposed to be a strength this season, but injuries have derailed the team from having any type of consistency, according to Bill Plaschke of The Los Angeles Times. “I mean, it’s hard, but, you know you can’t do anything about that,” said Zubac. “Guys get hurt and we got to give them time to get healthy … we don’t want to rush anyone … it is what it is.” The Clippers are just 23-22 after entering the season with championship aspirations, and have gone 9-6 in the 15 games that Kawhi Leonard and Paul George have played together, Plaschke notes.

California Notes: Jackson, Wall, Zubac, Kings, Poole

Clippers head coach Tyronn Lue has claimed that a report indicating that Reggie Jackson had won the L.A. starting point guard gig over John Wall did not come from him, and that he has yet to make a final decision, according to Andrew Greif of The Los Angeles Times. Los Angeles will play its first regular season contest this Thursday.

“Both guys are in a great position, and their mindset is in the right place,” Lue said. “It is about winning. It is not about who’s the starter, who’s the best player. It’s about the right fit and trying to win, and both of those guys are on board with that.”

Here’s more out of California:

  • Clippers center Ivica Zubac spoke with Mark Medina of NBA.com for a wide-ranging conversation that touched on the team’s hoped-for title contention this season, its stars’ injury woes, the development of Zubac around the rim, and more. Zubac also gave head coach Tyronn Lue a rave review. “Ty has been around the team and me for a while, even before he became a head coach,” Zubac noted. “He’s been seeing the progress for a while. It’s in big part thanks to him. He’s been pushing us. Last season, he asked me to do some things on the court that he hadn’t asked me to do in a while. He involved me more offensively. I think that was a big part of my progression.”
  • Following a rigorous training camp, the Kings opted to retain point guard Matthew Dellavedova, forward Chima Moneke, and power forward KZ Okpala into the regular season. Jason Anderson of The Sacramento Bee breaks down how the new Sacramento additions made the grade. All are currently signed to non-guaranteed deals with the team. “As training camp has gone on, [Moneke] is trending upwards,” head coach Mike Brown said. “I think the initial shock of being in the NBA and the speed and athleticism and all that stuff caught him off guard a little bit, but he belongs on this level and he can help us. I think KZ, too. Both of those guys were two of my first calls, even before I really got the job.” Brown also raved about Dellavedova’s effort on defense. “If Davion [Mitchell] ain’t going hard, he will get embarrassed by Delly… If [De’Aaron] Fox isn’t going hard, he will get embarrassed by Delly. To have a guy like that raises the level of intensity.”
  • Warriors reserve guard Jordan Poole signed a four-year contract extension with Golden State worth up to $140MM. Now, new details have emerged about the contract’s various incentives. Anthony Slater of The Athletic unpacks the deal, revealing that – beyond the guaranteed $123MM – Poole will make an extra $1.25MM per year (i.e. $5MM across all four seasons) depending on how far the team gets in the playoffs. He will net an additional $1MM for each year he wins the league MVP award (so a very, very hypothetical total of $4MM), plus $1MM annually per every Defensive Player of the Year award. Considering his skillset, earning either honor even once seems fairly far-fetched. Poole could earn $500K per season should he qualify for an All-NBA team (there are a total of 15 such slots available) and another $500K annually should he qualify for an All-Defensive Team (there are 10 available openings). Slater notes that it is possible Poole grows into being an All-NBA talent, but is skeptical he could ever be an elite defender or named the league MVP.

International Notes: Schröder, Theis, Giannis, Satoransky

Free agent guard Dennis Schröder won’t accompany his German teammates to Sweden for Thursday’s opening game of the FIBA World Cup Qualifiers, according to Eurohoops. Schröder is recovering from an ankle injury he suffered in the Hamburg Super Cup tournament and will remain in Germany for treatment. There’s a chance he may recover in time for next Sunday’s home contest against Slovenia.

Schröder remains unsigned after splitting last season with the Celtics and Rockets. Although he received positive reviews in Houston after being acquired at the trade deadline, the team is emphasizing youth and doesn’t appear interested in bringing back Schröder.

Germany is already without Pacers center Daniel Theis, who will miss the World Cup Qualifiers and possibly next month’s EuroBasket tournament due to an undisclosed injury. He is training individually and being monitored by the German national team’s medical staff, according to Johnny Askounis of Eurohoops.

The Germans are also missing Maxi Kleber, Moritz Wagner and Isaac Bonga due to injuries.

There’s more international news to pass along:

  • Bucks star Giannis Antetokounmpo sat out Greece’s final exhibition game with back soreness, but he’s expected to be ready for Thursday’s World Cup Qualifier against Serbia, Askounis writes in a separate story. Antetokounmpo underwent an MRI that showed no damage to his back.
  • NBA players Dario Saric, Ivica Zubac and Bojan Bogdanovic are all on the final roster for Croatia, Eurohoops reports. Mario Hezonja is also part of the Croatian team, which missed out on the World Cup Qualifiers but will participate in EuroBasket. Saric sat out all of last season with a torn right ACL.
  • Czech Republic guard Tomas Satoransky appears to have avoided a major injury to his right ankle, Eurohoops adds in another piece. Satoransky was hurt in Saturday’s game against Germany, and while there has been no official announcement on his condition, Czech reporter Jakub Kanta offered encouraging news. “The X-ray has already ruled out a fracture,” he tweeted, “but the extent of the injury will only be determined by an MRI in the Czech Republic after the swelling subsides.” Satoransky recently signed with FC Barcelona after spending six seasons in the NBA.

More Than 30 NBA Players On Track To Suit Up For EuroBasket

The first EuroBasket tournament in five years will tip off in two weeks and there are currently 34 NBA players on track to participate in the event, representing 17 different countries, according to Johnny Askounis of Eurohoops.net.

EuroBasket is a 24-team international basketball competition also known as the European Basketball Championship. It historically took place every two years, but that gap was recently adjusted to four years, emulating the FIBA World Cup schedule.

The last EuroBasket tournament was played in 2017 — the next one had been scheduled for 2021, but was pushed back due to the COVID-19 pandemic and the postponement of the Tokyo Olympics. As a result, after being played every two years since 1947, it has now been five years since the last EuroBasket tournament, easily the longest layoff since World War II.

It’s possible that some NBA players will be cut from their teams’ rosters or will have to drop out due to injuries or personal reasons before the event begins on September 1, but in general enthusiasm to participate in the long-awaited event appears high.

Here’s the list of NBAers currently set to play in EuroBasket, per Eurohoops:

There are also multiple NBA free agents on EuroBasket rosters, including French swingman Timothe Luwawu-Cabarrot and German guard Dennis Schröder.

A number of young NBA players, such as 2022 draftees Jeremy Sochan and Nikola Jovic, have dropped out to focus on getting ready for the 2022/23 season, while others, including Bogdan Bogdanovic (Serbia) and Frank Ntilikina (France), were ruled out due to injuries.

Round robin play will begin on September 1, with each team facing the other five clubs in its group once. The top four teams in each group will advance to a 16-team bracket that begins on September 10. The final will take place on September 18, just over a week before NBA training camps get underway.