From Orlando to Chicago, new Bull Nikola Vucevic discusses the journey
It’s been a whirlwind since the big man was traded at the deadline, but he still remembers where he came from and also where he wants to go with the Bulls franchise.
The wardrobe has been limited.
So limited that Nikola Vucevic can rattle off the items of clothing quite easily.
“Three sweatsuits, two jeans, and two sweaters,’’ the Bulls big man said Wednesday.
Vucevic has played nine of his first 10 games with his new team living out of a quickly packed suitcase on the road.
“I do wash them,’’ he made sure to add.
While the first showdown against his former Magic teammates should have brought more emotion to his doorstep — like the tears that crept out when he was traded March 25 — that would have required time for him to sit around and think. It’s time he really hasn’t been allotted after being traded on that Thursday, then going to Chicago for physicals and the playbook Cliffs Notes on Friday, and then dropping 21 points and nine rebounds against the Spurs the day after.
Nine different cities and three weeks later, Vucevic was playing against his former team, as well as just his second game in his new home arena.
“My team in Orlando was very special to me,’’ Vucevic said. “I came there as a kid and I left nine years later, but what I’m most proud of is the last couple years because we went through a lot, went through a rebuild and then a rebuild kind [of] again, and then we finally made the playoffs two years in a row, and I was able to become a two-time All-Star.
“Hopefully fans will always remember me as someone who played hard, competed and gave his best. Hopefully they’ll remember my legacy there as something good. . . . At least now I can talk about it without crying, which is not bad. It’s a step forward.’’
At the same time, Vucevic knows there’s new steps to climb. Orlando does have some basketball history, but not like the banner-filled rafters he now plays under for the Bulls. When the Bulls gave up draft picks to add to this roster — specifically adding Vucevic — it wasn’t to stay in play-in game territory or even be a one-and-done in the playoffs like the Magic were.
Lakers standout power forward/center Anthony Davis calls Chicago the “Mecca of Basketball,’’ and has backing from the likes of Doc Rivers and Patrick Beverley.
Vucevic is now playing with new expectations, and more pressure. Maybe when he gets a minute to actually weigh that it will kick in. Hopefully, not.
“This is like my second or third day in Chicago,’’ Vucevic said. “We haven’t played in front of fans or anything. I haven’t really got that feel yet fully of playing for the Bulls as I hope I can soon with fans in the arena. That’s the real thing.
“I put a lot of pressure on myself to bring it every night and compete and play the best I can to help the team win. I don’t think that will change much as far as, ‘Oh, it’s Orlando or Chicago.’ I always want to win. You want to help your team get to the highest level possible. I enjoy those moments.’’
Head coach Billy Donovan was once again asked about struggling rookie Patrick Williams in the starting lineup and possible changes moving forward. While there are no plans to make a move, Donovan made it very clear he will always do what’s best for the team.
“I wouldn’t say he’s untouchable,’’ Donovan said. “Patrick I don’t think is any different from any guy on this team. He would do whatever he could to help the group.’’