Lakers news: Michael Beasley says Ivica Zubac 'is a beast'
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Lakers’ Michael Beasley says Ivica Zubac ‘is a beast’

Ivica Zubac, Lakers

LOS ANGELES – The Los Angeles Lakers limped into Sunday’s game against the division rival Phoenix Suns. The team continues to deal with injury issues, and that was never apparent this game in which three of their five starters were ruled out before tipoff.

LeBron James’ return date remains uncertain as he was only just returned to practicing with the team. Lonzo Ball will be out for more than a month with his recent ankle injury, and now Kyle Kuzma is battling a hip issue which kept him sidelined on Sunday.

Even though the team had a lot of their star players sidelined, the Lakers were able to come out on top against the lowly Suns with Brandon Ingram, Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, Lance Stephenson, and especially Ivica Zubac picking the slack.

Zubac made an impact on both ends of the floor as he finished with 24 points, 16 rebounds (career high), and four blocks. The third-year center was all over the floor and earned high praise from his teammates like Michael Beasley.

“Every opportunity he’s gotten he’s played well,” Beasley said of Zubac. “He’s a dog. He’s a beast.”

The Lakers scored 70 points in the paint against the Suns, and Zubac had plenty to do with their success. The young center continues to come into his own while Luke Walton and his coaching staff give him the opportunity to showcase his ability.

“He does a great job of getting himself open,” Rondo said of Zubac. “Finding the right spots. Getting to the creases where the ball can reach him, and he’s able to finish. He has great touch around the rim with both hands, and he’s probably one of the strongest bigs in the game.”

On Tuesday, Zubac will face perhaps his toughest challenge yet going head-to-head against All-Star center, Joel Embiid. The Philadelphia 76ers will come town on Jan. 29 with Zubac ready to battle it out. Zubac talked about preparing for Embiid after the game.

“I have to prepare extra,” Zubac said of facing Embiid. “He’s one of the best big guys in the league. I’ll have Tyson to help me out and JaVale. What kind of defense to play. What’s the best way to play against him and I’m going to come out ready.”

If Zubac can continue playing at a high level, he might have a tight grip on that starting job at the five spot while potentially seeing his role get bigger as the season progresses.