Denton: Rebounding Most Important to Vucevic

By John Denton
March 10, 2014

MILWAUKEE – When he and his father talk after games – and they usually do so after every Orlando Magic game even though Borislav lives in Montenegro – Nikola Vucevic is asked pointedly by his dad about how many rebounds that he grabbed.

Not points, blocked shots or beautifully high-arching jump shots. Having played professionally in Yugoslavia, Switzerland and Belgium for 20 years, Borislav knows a thing or two about the game of basketball. And he has always reinforced to his son that he should rebound well regardless of whatever else happens in the flow of the game.

``That’s always my mindset, to rebound the ball,’’ Vucevic said. ``Offensively, I might not always be able to make shots, I might miss shots or I might not get looks every game. But rebounding is something that I can always do. I’m always around the paint, so I can get defensive rebounds and some offensive rebounds, too. Rebounding is all about effort. I have a pretty good feel for it, but it’s something that I take pride in doing. I enjoy getting a good, strong rebound.’’

Vucevic should have plenty of chances for rebounds tonight when the Magic (19-45) face the Bucks (12-50) in Milwaukee. In his last six games against the Bucks, Vucevic has averaged 19.7 points and 12.2 rebounds. The Magic beat the Bucks twice in Orlando, but lost in Milwaukee on Feb. 18. The Magic have the NBA’s worst road record (4-29) while the Bucks have the league’s worst home mark (7-26).

The Magic hope to see the return tonight of standout rookie Victor Oladipo, who missed the past two games with a sore left ankle. Oladipo went through the team’s morning practice and said his ankle is feeling better. If he received the approval of Head Athletic trainer Keon Weise and head coach Jacque Vaughn, Oladipo figures to play as a reserve.

``At the end of the day, it’s all up to my ankle and how it feels and how it feels when I go (back to the hotel in Milwaukee) and what it feels like tonight,’’ Oladipo said. ``If it’s right, then I’m going to play. If it’s not then I’m going to be watching again. I’m a game-time decision, really.’’

Despite the Magic’s many ups and downs, Vucevic has been a model of consistency all season when healthy. He enters tonight’s game riding a streak of six straight double-figure games in points and rebounds. He’s had double-doubles in eight of the last nine games and 14 of 18 since missing three weeks and 12 games in January with a concussion.

``When I had that concussion, I sat out for three weeks and did nothing,’’ said Vucevic, who fell onto the floor head-first in Los Angeles on Jan. 6. ``It took me a little while to get back to where I want to be. Now, I feel like I’m where I want to be and I can play for longer periods and feel good on the court.’’

The Magic also feel good about having Vucevic on the court because of the consistency that he brings to the team every night. He is a competent screen-and-roll defender and rim protector, but he’s among the best in the league when it comes to rebounding. In addition to averaging 14.2 points and shooting 51.1 percent from the floor, Vucevic ranks eighth in the league in rebounding (11 rpg.). Also, his 3.3 offensive rebounds a game are fourth in the league.

``When Nik comes to the game, you know what he’s going to produce and what you are going to get every night,’’ Oladipo raved. ``It’s always great to have somebody like that, someone so effective at his size and how he helps us rebound and score. He’s just has to keep it going.’’

Vucevic played especially well against San Antonio’s towering frontline of Tim Duncan and Tiago Splitter on Saturday, racking up 19 points, 13 rebounds and three assists. It was his 30th double-double of the season.

``I like to get rebounds and help my team that way. I don’t really look at it as double-doubles. I just want to help my team and do what I’m supposed to do, which is rebound the ball,’’ Vucevic said. ``I want to be consistent in every area of the game. Rebounding is something that I can do every game. Points just come from my teammates looking for me.’’