Denton: One-Year Anniversary of Vucevic's Historic Night

   

By John Denton
Dec. 30, 2013

ORLANDO – Orlando Magic center Nikola Vucevic used 2013 as a breakout year to establish himself as one of the NBA’s most dominant rebounders and an emerging low-post threat.

And none of it might have been possible without a performance for the ages on the final day of 2012.

Now, exactly a year later, Vucevic is hoping to repeat a performance in which he grabbed more rebounds in a game than anyone in the 25-year history of the Magic. It was last New Year’s Eve that Vucevic announced himself to the basketball world with a 29-rebound performance that unseated Shaquille O’Neal from the Magic record books and established the 7-footer as a rising star.

``It’s a night that I’ll always remember. It was a huge night for me to break Shaq’s record,’’ Vucevic said of his record-shattering performance. ``Knowing that it was Shaq and Dwight (Howard, who have played in Orlando), two guys who have led in rebounds, it was huge for me and my confidence. I feel like that game got me going for the rest of the year.’’

Whereas Vucevic ended 2012 with a bang and it set him up for a big second half of the season, last year also put him in a good spot to make major strides this season. Heading into the Magic’s 5 p.m. New Year’s Eve game against the Golden State Warriors, Vucevic ranks fifth in the NBA in rebounding (11.5 rpg) and he’s become a much more assertive post player. The usually mild-mannered Vucevic has become so much more aggressive that he now fights hard for position and demands that teammates throw him the ball. ``He didn’t really know who he was (last season), but now he understands what he can do and how he can contribute every night,’’ gushed Magic power forward Glen ``Big Baby’’ Davis. ``Nik’s thirsty and he wants more. He wants to be a driving force on this team.’’

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