Los Angeles Clippers‘ starting center Ivica Zubac is dealing with a right calf strain and will be re-evaluated in four weeks, according to The Athletic’s Shams Charania. Such an absence is highly unusual for Zubac, who had missed only 12 games since joining the Clippers in 2019 prior to Tuesday’s news.
Zubac’s absence will be significant for a Clippers team that has been playing very well of late. After losing their first five games with James Harden, the Clippers have gone 22-6 since. The developing chemistry between Harden and Zubac in pick-and-roll has been a big reason for that success. Zubac is averaging a career-high 12.4 points and 1.4 blocks per game this season. As a team, the Clippers have been 8.6 points per 100 possessions better with him on the floor than without him this season. He is their defensive anchor and an increasingly important part of their offense, so he will be missed while he is out.
Fortunately, the Clippers are getting former backup center Mason Plumlee back from the injury he suffered earlier this season. They have also gotten good production out of Daniel Theis, whom they signed after he was bought out by the Indiana Pacers earlier in the season. The two of them should be able to keep the Clippers afloat while Zubac recovers, and if necessary, Los Angeles has enough forward depth to potentially play small-ball for stretches. P.J. Tucker has largely been out of the rotation lately, but Zubac’s absence could earn him a few small-ball center minutes.
Injuries were expected to be a problem for the Clippers this season as they have for the past several, but Zubac was the last player they expected to lose. Fortunately, Kawhi Leonard and Paul George, who have both dealt with myriad injuries since joining the Clippers, have largely been able to remain on the court. As long as they have their stars, the Clippers can survive a stretch without their starting center.