Ante Zizic is progressing nicely in his summer league play
In just a little over a week we've seen a pretty solid progression from Celtics big man Ante Zizic in his first action against NBA level competition. While the excitement of adding a big man with the skillset of Zizic to the C's roster has been bubbling for some time now, expectations tempered a little bit as the Croatian 7-footer took his first action in the Utah summer league last week. He looked raw and had some trouble adjusting to the pace of the NBA game.
Zizic has been his own biggest critic, suggesting it will take him some time to adjust to the NBA style of play. After Sunday night's win over the Trailblazers Zizic spoke on his play, noting that he'll be up to speed when the regular season rolls around. Via Ty Anderson of WEEI.com:
"Everything is much faster. But I think right now, today I played really good,” Zizic, who has been one of his harshest critics this summer, told reporters after the win. “After training camp I will be ready 100 percent for this style of game. And of course there's a lot of -- here, they prefer a game of 1-on-1. And I'll find my role."
After struggling somewhat in his first fews games in Utah, Zizic has had a nice progression since the Celtics have moved on to the Las Vegas summer league. In Vegas he's averaging 7.7 points, 8 rebounds, and 1.7 blocks in just over 18 minutes per game while shooting 60% from the floor.
Still, Zizic had some kinks in his play last night as he turned the ball over 5 times, but according to coach Brad Stevens he believes that was mostly a mixture of fatigue and the Celtics putting him in tough spots he's not yet accustomed to:
Brad Stevens said he thinks Zizic looks gassed after long season overseas. Also thinks Cs put the big man in bad spots early.
After playing a long season overseas, first in his home country of Croatia and then moving to play for former Cavaliers coach David Blatt in the Euroleague season that went into June, perhaps no one will benefit more than Zizic from the summer rest that will be coming when the Celtics finish their games in Las Vegas.
C's forward Jaylen Brown thinks that Zizic benefits from other players underestimating both his athleticism because of his size, he's 7'0 tall and 250 lbs, and his court awareness:
"He's more athletic than people think," Jaylen Brown says of Ante Zizic. "He understands the game very well."
While Zizic said he'll be all caught up by the end of training camp I certainly expect Stevens to bring him along slowly. Coach Brad's system relies heavily on guys being in the right spots, particularly on defense, and he's been known to temper young players' minutes early on. Zizic has some great mentors in Al Horford and the newly acquired Aron Baynes, whom I expect to get the majority of minutes at Center early on aside from Horford, but I already like the progression we've seen from Zizic in the past week-plus. It's going to be hard to keep that rebounding and rim protection off the floor as Zizic continues to grow in his rookie season.
I absolutely LOVE his patience on offense, particularly in the post. He looks like a seasoned vet attacking the rim from the block: