Nikola Vucevic is comfortable in his role with the Bulls
In his days with Orlando, the big man knew he was option No. 1. He knew change was coming as soon as the front office added DeMar DeRozan.
MIAMI — Nikola Vucevic knew exactly where the question was going.
The name “Chris Bosh’’ was a dead giveaway.
That’s why the Bulls big man gave a brief laugh as he listened to the rest of the question and collected his thoughts on how he wanted to answer it.
“Every NBA player at this level is going to have an ego,’’ Vucevic told the Sun-Times. “You have to have an ego to be able to compete every night. It’s just how you use it. And I think for me, I’m a team-first guy and I always have been, so my mindset was just whatever it takes to help the team win.
“Everyone has to sacrifice to get where we want to get, and maybe some more than others, but winning games makes it more comfortable.’’
And that’s where Vucevic finally is — comfortable.
In his days with Orlando — especially his last few — the big man knew he was option No. 1 and had the numbers to back that up. Before the Bulls acquired him last season, Vucevic was averaging 24.5 points and 11.8 rebounds per game, knowing he was going to get his 20 shots per night.
He knew change was coming this summer, however, as soon as the front office added DeMar DeRozan. Vucevic was going to be the third option on this Bulls team, much like Bosh had to sacrifice and become the third option for “The Heatles’’ with LeBron James and Dwyane Wade.
Now, no one was comparing Wade, James and Bosh to DeRozan, Zach LaVine and Vucevic, but sacrifice is sacrifice, and when a “Big Three’’ is built — no matter the star power — the No. 3 option is usually the one that has to display the most selflessness.
That’s why what Vucevic has been able to pull off this season for the second-best team in the Eastern Conference record-wise hasn’t been appreciated enough.
“I also knew that once I was able to figure out my spots and the positions I was in with the way we play, I could still be very effective,’’ Vucevic said of his journey this year. “I might not be 24 a game like I was in Orlando, and I might not have 20 shots, it was going to be less. In certain situations it might be easier for me to play because I have more help around me, guys that the defense focus on like DeMar and Zach, so it might open up the defense more for me. It’s been about figuring it out and still being effective.’’
More importantly, keeping feelings out of it.
Vucevic would love to score the basketball more — he made that very clear — but this is also his 11th season, and the chase for a ring carries more weight than individual numbers.
That’s why there hasn’t been one complaint on his touches. If anything, coach Billy Donovan has asked DeRozan and LaVine to find Vucevic more than they have, especially early in contests so he can establish the inside-outside game.
“I knew with the team we had that I wouldn’t be able to play the way I did in Orlando,’’ Vucevic said. “It’s just me getting accustomed to my new role, new situations. That’s the tougher part when you play a certain way for so long. You knew you were going to get your shots no matter what was going on, and get them in your spots. Now every game is different. You get the ball in different places, you rely on others a lot more. It’s just an adjustment for me that I had to go through, getting used to that new role and still making sure I can be effective.’’