clock menu more-arrow no yes

Filed under:

Bulls center Nikola Vucevic isn’t far off from turning it around

The Heat did a number on the big man Saturday in the Bulls’ loss, but to turn things around, there’s another Nikola he can study on film and try to emulate.

One quick fix that Nikola Vucevic might want to explore?

The Bulls big man should throw in the film of the Nuggets-Heat game from Monday when he has some downtime.

Not that Vucevic is at the same level as league MVP Nikola Jokic, but he’s at least a poor man’s ‘‘Joker.’’

They’re pass-first big men who can also play the stretch-five role.

The Heat tried the same switching defense with Jokic that they threw at Vucevic all night Saturday with one major difference. The 6-11 Jokic didn’t hesitate and wait for help to come. He made them pay for the switch, especially when it was a smaller defender.

In only nine minutes in the first quarter, Jokic had nine points on 3-for-3 shooting. Vucevic finished the Heat game 3-for-9 with seven points in 30 minutes.

It was nice to see the Bulls All-Star hit his first shot against Charlotte, but the Hornets don’t play the defense Miami does or the type of defense that Vucevic will experience in the postseason.

That’s why coach Billy Donovan reiterated the importance of not only getting Vucevic going with his own offense, but getting him more involved in syncing up with the big two of Zach LaVine and DeMar DeRozan.

“We’ve got to make it a little easier for [Vucevic], especially in pick-and-roll situations, where I think guys are cognizant of getting the ball to him, but sometimes we’ve got to manipulate things better for him to get his feet set,’’ Donovan said. “He’s a very prideful guy. I think he takes it hard in the way he’s shot the ball from the free-throw line, from the field and from the three-point line. He’s finding his way, and I think the hard thing for him is just being out, missing seven games [with the coronavirus], trying to come back and finding his way back after being out for a period of time.’’

Back to school?

Forward Patrick Williams has remained around the team and the practice facility since undergoing surgery on his left wrist. He likely will miss the rest of the regular season.

According to Donovan, his spirits remain good, and he has even kicked around some plans to keep him busy while he’s working through the injury.

“I think the biggest thing for him is going to end up being once he leaves the facility, picking up other things to do and being productive,’’ Donovan said. “I know he’s talked a little bit about trying to even enroll in some classes at Florida State and doing some different things academically.

‘‘I think that will be important for him as he works toward his degree.’’

Zone-busters

The Heat weren’t the first team to have success against the Bulls by employing a zone against them this season, and they undoubtedly won’t be the last, especially with how well it has worked.

The Hornets broke their zone out with just under five minutes left in the first quarter.

Donovan, however, sees the solution to breaking the zone in just a few easy adjustments.

“One of the challenges of our team, man or zone, we’ve got to play more downhill than we do,’’ Donovan said.

“I thought the shots against Miami, I didn’t think they were necessarily bad shots or that we got hung up against the shot clock. It was just too much perimeter-oriented, passing around the perimeter.

“Zone is generally to get you to stand, get you a little stagnant, the ball doesn’t move as much, but we’ve got to find ways.’’