Veteran big man Nikola Vucevic talks free agency and Bulls future

The veteran center is adept at separating basketball from business, and while he continued giving few clues about what will happen this offseason, he reiterated that he does know his value to a team ... no matter which one it is.

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All the signs are there for Nikola Vucevic to re-sign with the Bulls this summer, but nothing is certain for the big man and that’s how he’ll approach it until July.

All the signs are there for Nikola Vucevic to re-sign with the Bulls this summer, but nothing is certain for the big man and that’s how he’ll approach it until July.

Frank GunnThe Canadian Press via AP

TORONTO — A nod of acknowledgment was the only tell center Nikola Vucevic was willing to offer Wednesday, which wasn’t a whole lot.

He did concede that the Bulls gave up a lot to acquire him from the Magic during the 2020-21 season and that they weren’t even looking to shop him before the February trade deadline, despite his expiring contract, so that said something about his future.

“I think they value me highly,’’ Vucevic said. “They traded for me; they appreciate what I bring to the table. We didn’t talk about [a contract extension] all year, but we will when July comes. Yeah, we have a good relationship, and we’ll talk when the time comes.’’

The Bulls have decisions to make throughout the roster this summer, but none is bigger than how they handle Vucevic’s free agency.

Yes, he wants to stay with the organization and has maintained that all year, but he also has reiterated on several occasions that “I know my value.’’

Does that align with how the Bulls value him?

That’s the unknown.

Giving away all that draft capital to snatch Vucevic from the Magic, only to let him walk would be a bad look for the Bulls, but if they want to get more protection at the rim, it has to come at someone’s expense. That someone would be the 12-year vet.

It would be unfortunate for Vucevic because he has been in his best mental state as an NBA player this season — a night-and-day difference from last season.

“Last year, I was just trying to make everything happen so quickly,’’ Vucevic said. “I wanted to be able to be the best version of myself right away, and when that didn’t happen, I started forcing things, overthinking things. I wasn’t letting my natural instincts come into play, and it took me some time to figure it out. It took me time to find my place with my new teammates, new system.

“Not everyone realizes that as a big man, it takes more time. You don’t have the ball in your hand. I feel like late last season and into the playoffs, I found my place and how I can be my best. I came into this year feeling much more comfortable with my teammates. Plus, the new offense helped me, as well. I’m not overthinking, not second-guessing myself. I feel like I’m a better version of myself than I was.’’

Vucevic was adamant about not being in the business of ring-chasing. He’s not going to cut his own value in July just for the hope of playing on a perceived can’t-miss contender.

“Obviously, we all want to win a title,’’ Vucevic said. “That’s the dream. But it’s very, very hard to do, especially in the NBA.

‘‘Coming from Europe and the EuroLeague, you have teams there that have unlimited budgets, and they get the best players every year. You know it’s one of five or six teams that are going to win it every year.

“Here there’s so much that has to happen. The way a team is built, stay healthy, things got to click, and it’s not always easy. Nowadays there seems to be a huge culture push of if you don’t get a championship, it hurts your career.

‘‘It’s a little bit unfair because a lot has to happen that doesn’t necessarily depend on you.’’

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