Denton: Vucevic Misses Game in Philadelphia With Ankle Sprain

By John Denton
Dec. 3, 2013

PHILADELPHIA – For more than a season in Orlando, Magic center Nikola Vucevic has been a force, piling up one double-double after another.

But Vucevic finally met his match on Monday night in Washington, D.C., in the unlikeliest of forms.

When Vucevic accidentally stepped on the foot of a courtside cameraman, he sprained his ankle so badly that it knocked him out of Tuesday night’s game in Philadelphia against the 76ers.

Having players – and referees, for that matter – stumble over courtside cameramen has been an issue in the NBA for years, and the league has taken measures this season to limit the number of cameramen and photographers along the baselines. Vucevic said the situation just boiled down to having bad luck, but he also thinks that it’s a spot that is ripe for injuries because of the lack of space between the court and the photographers and cameramen.

``I went for the layup and I didn’t see how far I went back and I tried to push off to go back on (defense) and I stepped on (the cameraman’s) foot,’’ Vucevic said Tuesday night. ``I think, a little bit, (it’s dangerous). They’re kind of close to the basket behind the line. A lot of times when you go for a basket at full speed you are going to end up behind the basket. And when you try to go back, you step on somebody’s foot or just fall and then there are injuries for both players and (cameramen) as well. I think, in a way, they could make it safer.’’

The injury couldn’t have happened at a worse time for a Magic team that is already without point guard Jameer Nelson and forward Tobias Harris. The Magic scored 91 and 80 points in their past two games – their two lowest offensive outputs of the season.

The 7-foot Vucevic also presented one of Orlando’s biggest advantages against the smallish Sixers frontline. When the Magic beat the 76ers last week in Orlando, Vucevic made his first eight shots and scored 21 points. He finished off his demolition of the Sixers with 16 rebounds, five assists and three blocked shots.

For the season, Vucevic is averaging 14.7 points and a team-best 10.9 rebounds a game. He has nine double-doubles this season and a 31-point, 20-rebound effort against the Los Angeles Clippers.

Orlando started power forward Jason Maxiell at center on Tuesday night.

Vucevic’s injury occurred in the third quarter of Orlando’s loss in Washington, D.C. After his momentum carried him out of bounds, Vucevic tried to run back up court only to tangle feet with the cameraman.

``I just stepped on the guy’s foot and twisted my ankle a little bit,’’ Vucevic said. ``It wasn’t too bad, but I felt (the pain in the ankle) pretty good. It was hurting me. It was warm so I just kept playing through it. But it was hurting me and I wasn’t sure how it was going to react afterwards. I was worried about it when it got cold, but it wasn’t too bad.’’

Both Magic coach Jacque Vaughn and Sixers coach Brett Brown agreed that the close proximity between the baseline and the row of cameramen creates a dangerous situation for players. For years, NBA coaches have pushed for the league to change where the baseline cameramen are positioned with little success.

``These guys are strong, athletic and they play with force. And they’re trying to finish plays and a lot of times their focus is on the rim and where the ball is going and not where you are landing,’’ Vaughn said. ``It’s a tough environment in each arena.’’

Added Brown, who used to coach with Vaughn when the two were assistants together in San Antonio under head coach Gregg Popovich: ``The league has talked about (changing it). My opinion is that we need to look at it. You know, we used to talk a lot about it with Pop and the Spurs where there is almost like a restricted area no different than the charge circle where the media has a right to go. It is dangerous. We appreciate all of the support and attention that the league needs and we’re not cutting our nose off to spite our face, but I think it’s something that we might have to look at.’’

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