Bulls clawed in Memphis, but big man Nikola Vucevic wants team to stand pat

Not only does Vucevic hope the “Big Three” remains intact at the trade deadline Thursday, but he also is open to a contract extension to stay with the Bulls beyond this season.

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The Bulls’ Nikola Vucevic goes after a loose ball Tuesday night.

The Bulls’ Nikola Vucevic goes after a loose ball Tuesday night.

Karen Pulfer Focht/AP

MEMPHIS, Tenn. — Bulls center Nikola Vucevic knows it hasn’t always looked pretty.

In fact, it sometimes has been downright painful on the eyes.

But he still believes in keeping the ‘‘Big Three’’ together with the trade deadline Thursday and rumors swirling.

Actually, if it was up to Vucevic, the front office would keep the entire roster intact.

‘‘There are a lot of ways we do fit together,’’ Vucevic said. ‘‘Just about us building that chemistry. Plus, all three of us — Zach [LaVine], DeMar [DeRozan] and myself — are at a point in our career where we do want to win, get there. When you put all that together, it makes a lot of sense to give us the shot and continue to work on it.

‘‘When the three of us take that lead and play the way we need to play, we could be a good team.’’

The good, the bad and the ugly was on display in the Bulls’ 104-89 loss Tuesday to the Grizzlies.

On a night in which the Bulls (26-28) had only the two of the ‘‘Big Three’’ up and running — DeRozan was sidelined by a sore right hip — it was like watching three different games.

There was the first half, in which LaVine was a nonfactor and the Bulls turned the ball over 12 times and shot only 29.3%.

There was the third quarter, in which they they outscored the Grizzlies 36-23 to take a three-point lead.

Then there was the fourth quarter, in which the Bulls were outscored 32-14 and again had turnover and shooting issues.

One of the real head-scratchers was LaVine going 10-for-17 from the free-throw line. He is a career 83.1% shooter from there.

‘‘I gotta do better,’’ LaVine said. ‘‘It’s unacceptable for me to shoot that many free throws and miss. . . . Shot them with confidence, like I always do, but they just didn’t go in.’’

As far as keeping the band together — or possibly even adding some talent by Thursday — Vucevic wasn’t just talking about the rest of this season.

‘‘I’m excited about seeing if we can get what we want to get,’’ said Vucevic, who led the Bulls with 28 points and 17 rebounds. ‘‘Obviously, I’m not just taking the mindset of whatever happens, happens. I obviously would like to stay here [as a free agent this summer]. Hopefully we can work something out.

‘‘It makes sense that they want to first see how this all works out, how we do, how we finish the season. That’s just natural. They have to do their job the same way I’ve got to do my job. If they want to talk about an extension, I’d be more than happy to do it. Absolutely.’’

Vucevic downplayed the idea of being more willing to do an extension after the Pacers and center Myles Turner recently struck a two-year deal for just less than $60 million.

‘‘I know how valuable I am to this team,’’ Vucevic said. ‘‘It’s not like I’m a third- or fourth-year player, just trying to establish myself and establish my value. It’s pretty well-known around the league what I can do, what I bring to the table.

‘‘That’s great for Myles, but I don’t try and compare myself to other guys where, ‘Hey, this is what he got, this is what I should get.’ I don’t think like that. I’m more individual in the way I think about it.’’

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