Don’t forget ‘Vooch,’ Bulls big man and coach Billy Donovan say
While most of the first half of the season was filled with inconsistency by Vucevic, he’s been a better shooter the last month. Now it’s up to his teammates to search him out so he can make life easier for them.
CLEVELAND — Bulls center Nikola Vucevic isn’t demanding more shots. That’s not how he’s wired.
What he would like to see is more touches, an opportunity to show his teammates that he can make their lives on the court easier when the ball goes through him.
Maybe he finally is starting to be heard.
‘‘To me, it’s not the fact of get me the ball to shoot it,’’ Vucevic said before the Bulls’ game Saturday against the Cavaliers. ‘‘One thing about me, which I think is one of my best qualities, is I make the game easier for everybody.
‘‘A lot of times, like the way DeMar [DeRozan] and Zach [LaVine] are guarded — getting doubled, getting blitzed, all that — the defense focuses so much on them that I can always be an outlet and make plays out of it.’’
So why has that gotten lost at times?
In the Bulls’ loss Thursday to the Pelicans in New Orleans, Vucevic was 7-for-11 from the field and 2-for-3 from three-point range. The fact that he didn’t get more touches was one of the things the Bulls focused on in their film study Friday.
‘‘As a big man, you are dependent on others,’’ Vucevic said. ‘‘I’m outside quite a bit, so I think for guards it’s not always something they’re aware of because . . . they are just taught that we’re inside. Guards are taught to look for a big inside. I think 80% of them are inside. Few of them are shooting and able to step outside, so it’s just an adjustment for everybody. Definitely something we keep talking about.’’
Getting Vucevic involved early against the Cavaliers was a good sign. He was 4-for-6 from the field and scored 10 points in the first quarter. He finished with 16.
‘‘I think there’s times we need to move [the ball] better,’’ coach Billy Donovan said. ‘‘There’s times I think we need to find [Vucevic] in those situations because he’s such a good connector from one side of the floor to the other. I think we miss opportunities to do that. It’s something we certainly talked about and we’ve got to be better at.’’
For those who haven’t been paying attention or simply opted to write Vucevic off because of his inconsistency during the first half of the season, he’s shooting 39% from three-point range in March — his best month of the season — and had shot 59% or better in five of his last 10 games.
Still, there have been too many moments where his touches have dwindled, especially in crunch time. Donovan wants to see that end.
‘‘[The guards] definitely miss him, no question,’’ Donovan said. ‘‘He’s a high-level IQ player, and he knows the ones he needs to take and the ones he needs to get off of. It’s more in the heat of the moment, the awareness of making these quick decisions [for our guards].’’
Backup big man Tristan Thompson saw his wallet get a bit lighter when the NBA fined him $20,000 for directing profane language toward the officials late in the loss to the Pelicans.
Thompson drew two technical fouls when the officiating crew opted to review a play late. After he was ejected, he dropped the magic word several times.
Thompson had to be escorted off the court and into the locker room, which made the incident look even worse.