MIAMI — If Nikola Vucevic knew exactly what was broken with his shot it would have been fixed.
That’s how the Bulls big man thinks.
He arrived at an All-Star level through hard work, and his mentality has always been he would stay at that All-Star level with hard work.
That’s why his latest disappointing performance left Vucevic frustrated and searching.
In going 3-for-15 for 10 points in Saturday’s one-sided loss to Miami, Vucevic was now shooting 40.4% from the field, as well as 34% from three-point range. Numbers that the 6-foot-11 center is not used to seeing on his stat sheet — ever.
The bigger gut punch for him is he’s been going to the arena for extra shooting, he’s been staying after practices to search for that missing touch, and he continues watching game film of every one of his shots after each game.
“That’s the only way,’’ Vucevic said, when discussing his plan of even more work to climb out of the current rut. “I got here by working my way up to it. Talent is part of it, but I worked my way to the level that I am, and now that I’m going through a tough time the only way I know is to work myself out of it.’’
What was eye-opening in the loss to Miami was not only was the three-pointer continuing to elude him, but even open shots at the rim betrayed him. Sure, there’s been some unusual inconsistencies in the paint for Vucevic this season, but against an under-sized Miami team he was just flat-out bad.
“I got some post-up and hook shots that I’ve made a career of, and nothing was falling for me,’’ he said. “I look at all the games, and really I don’t have an explanation of what’s going on with my shot. It’s something I was always very consistent with and really good at my whole career — I was always a 50% shooter — so I don’t know.
“It’s just very disappointing for me because I’m trying to just be there for my team and do what I need to try and help us win, and I’m not doing that right now. I’m coming up short for my teammates and that’s the most frustrating part. When you lose and you don’t play well, you feel like it’s even more of your responsibility.’’
Billy Donovan’s responsibility in all of this?
The coach remained committed to game-planning through Vucevic like he has all season long, trying to take advantage of his ability to hit from outside, but also be a facilitator at the top of the key.
What Donovan wants to make sure is his veteran doesn’t get caught inside of his own head. That’s not Vucevic’s history, and Donovan doesn’t need it to start now.
“I think he holds himself to a really high standard because he’s done it for a long time at a high level,’’ Donovan said. “When you do something at a high level for a long time you see a level you feel you should be at, and when you’re not there I think for any person that can get frustrating.
“I think the biggest thing for Vooch that we need from him is maybe in those moments where he maybe feels like, ‘I need to be contributing more to help the team, I need to playing personally at a higher level, what I’m capable of and I’m not doing it,’ we just need him to stay mentally in the game.’’