Denton: Vucevic Happy Seahawks Won Because of USC Ties

Nikola Vucevic

By John Denton
Feb. 3, 2014

INDIANAPOLIS – As the NBA’s only road team assigned to play on Super Sunday, the Orlando Magic’s players missed most of Seattle’s rout of Denver in Super Bowl XLVIII while traveling from Boston to Indiana.

But that didn’t stop some of the Magic’s players from reveling in Seattle’s lopsided victory because of their ties to players on the Seahawks.

Magic center Nikola Vucevic was delighted by the Seahawks’ success because of his friendship with head coach Pete Carroll, who Vucevic got to know when the two of them were at USC. Vucevic, who only became a football fan a few years ago when he moved from Montenegro to Southern California, also took great pride in seeing a couple of other USC products shine in the game.

``I told everybody that defense wins championships and (the Seahawks) showed it,’’ Vucevic said. ``I was happy that Pete Carroll got a win. And also two other guys from USC that I know – Malcolm Smith got the MVP and Michael Morgan, I had some classes with him and I know him – so I was happy for those guys. I’m happy that S.C. gets some love. We showed out in the Super Bowl.’’

The Magic (13-36) will have a super challenge ahead of them on Monday night when they take on the rugged Indiana Pacers (36-10). The Pacers have the NBA’s best home record (22-2), while the Magic have struggled mightily on the road (3-22) this season.

The Magic played well away from home on Sunday in Boston before losing 96-89. Orlando got within two points of the Celtics late in the fourth quarter, but struggled down the stretch. Orlando has won three of its last four games at the Amway Center, but is still struggling to find that kind of consistency on the road. The three road victories this season have come in Atlanta, Charlotte and Chicago.

``A lot of things have to go right when you are on the road because there’s less margin for error,’’ Magic coach Jacque Vaughn said. ``The teams who have been extremely successful on the road probably have a few MVPs on their teams to help them at the end of the game.’’

Seahawks safety Kam Chancellor wasn’t the MVP of Sunday’s Super Bowl, but he could have been because of his first-half interception of Peyton Manning. The Norfolk, Va., native is close friends with Magic reserve center Kyle O’Quinn, who went to college for four years at Norfolk State University. O’Quinn said he communicated with Chancellor late Sunday night and Monday morning via text to congratulate him on playing well and winning the Super Bowl.

``That was so cool. I texted him and told him how proud I was of him. That’s big business,’’ O’Quinn said. ``He’s from the Virginia area where I used to go to school. When he used to come home (from Virginia Tech) I would stay there and we would hang out because it’s such a small town. Norfolk State is the home school for the Norfolk community, so it’s the base of hanging out and everybody knows everybody. I would always stay there in the summers and I would see guys like Kam when they came back home.’’

O’Quinn and Nicholson have a big-time matchup on their hands tonight when they face 7-foot-2 Indiana center Roy Hibbert, who ranks second in the NBA in blocked shots at 2.54 a night. Hibbert played a big role in Indiana’s rally to a 97-87 win in the season-opener against the Magic with eight points, 16 rebounds and seven blocked shots.

``He’s tough because he’s huge and is a long guy,’’ O’Quinn said of Hibbert. ``He bothers you all night and you have to know where he is at all times. You have to stick to the game plan to keep him away from affecting us.’’