For those old enough to remember, it’s still a little odd to hear the Cavaliers’ bench cheering on a center nicknamed “Big Z.” But the Wine & Gold have seen some Summer League glimpses from their young big man that has the squad thinking about a possible reincarnation.
Ante Zizic – acquired in the Kyrie Irving deal with Boston last offseason – doubled-up for the second-straight game, and despite Cleveland dropping the, 86-81, decision on Saturday night at the Thomas & Mack Center, Cleveland has a very good reason to be excited about their sophomore center.
Summer League is the chance for youngsters who didn’t get much of a shot during the regular season to showcase their talents, and the 23rd pick of the 2016 Draft has been opening eyes through the first two contests in Vegas – leading both teams with 25 points and 11 boards, going 11-of-14 from the floor to go with a pair of assists.
“Over the past season, I was preparing — working on my body, working on my game, working on everything, actually,” said Zizic, who was heading directly from the gym to watch his friend Stipe Miocic defend his heavyweight title. “So I feel much more ready for the league now.”
“(We like) his presence down low, physically we’re able to get him touches down low, he’s finishing, he’s playing strong and he’s rebounding,” praised James Posey. “He’s also been doing a great job in the pick-and-roll stuff that we’re asking him to do, so I really like what I see from Big Z.”
Over his first two games of the invitational, the 21-year-old from Croatia is averaging 20.5 points and 12.5 boards, going 19-of-30 from the floor in the process.
The Cavaliers trailed by as many as 15 points early in the third quarter and actually rallied to take a two-point edge midway through the fourth. But the Bulls pulled ahead to stay with just under three minutes to go and held Cleveland off down the stretch to even the Cavs’ Summer League mark at 1-1.
Collin Sexton had another solid showing in his second game – following up a 15-point performance in the opener against Washington with a 14-point effort against Chicago – going 6-of-15 from the field to go with two boards and a pair of assists.
The Wine & Gold were without Cedi Osman – who sat out to rest after a nice outing on Friday – and Billy Preston, who inked a two-way contract with Cleveland earlier in the day, missed the meeting with Chicago after suffering a right quad contusion on Friday night.
John Holland was the only other Cavalier to notch double-figures on Saturday night, finishing with 11 points despite struggling from the floor, going 4-of-14 from the field.
Antonio Blakeney led the Bulls with 25 points on 10-of-19 shooting. The Bulls’ top pick in this past Draft, Wendell Carter Jr., had a nice showing on Saturday – chipping in with 16 points, nine boards and a game-high five blocks.
The Cavaliers will look to get back into the win column when they wrap up the opening round play on Monday afternoon – taking on the Pacers at 2 p.m., Vegas time.