Lakers’ big man Ivica Zubac was one of the nearly couple dozen NBA players who decided to play in the September FIBA World Qualifiers. His Croatian team has a few of them with them including Dario Saric of the Sixers and Bojan Bogdanovic of the Pacers.
Just don’t think the Lakers were happy about it.
Teams are never entirely comfortable with their players suiting up for national teams, in large part due to the injury risk (remember Dante Exum blew out his ACL in international competition). Especially right now, they would rather have the player working out at their facility.
Nobody likes the new FIBA World Cup qualifying system, which has changed to a soccer-style where the majority of games during the NBA season (the same other major world leagues such as Spain and Italy). The difference is in soccer, there are international breaks so players go to their teams for these games, while the NBA and other leagues were not adding those stoppages. The result hurt the USA — which is being represented by G-League players primarily through the process — but America has the depth to overcome that. For smaller countries with a much smaller talent pool, the blows of not having their best players are felt more sharply.
Croatia is in that mix, and on the bubble for making it to China for the 2019 World Cup right now. Croatia is 3-4 so far heading into an almost must-win game against Poland Monday. Despite all that talent, Croatia fell to Lithuania 84-83 over the weekend.
Zubac is helping averaging 14.3 points and 5.7 rebounds per game for Croatia.