Nikola Vucevic Will Play Against Bobcats

Nikola Vucevic

By John Denton
Dec. 11, 2013

CHARLOTTE – Other than bringing along a winter jacket and sweaters to combat the cold weather, Orlando Magic center Nikola Vucevic didn’t pack a suit jacket for the team’s six-game, 12-day road trip through the Northeast and Southeast sections of the country.

Vucevic never envisioned getting injured on the road trip, especially in the manner that he did after stepping on the foot of a courtside cameraman in Washington, D.C. last Monday night. And because he couldn’t sit on the bench without a suit jacket for fear of being fined by the NBA, Vucevic was isolated in the locker room while watching Magic games. That, he said, made sitting out the past four games doubly tough.

``It’s annoying sitting on the side (during practices). And then I didn’t even bring a jacket on the trip, so I’m in the locker room,’’ Vucevic said. ``It’s hard watching your teammates and wanting to be there to help, but you can’t. I just had to try to get healthy as fast as I can to help my teammates again.’’

Vucevic will be able to rejoin his teammates tonight when the Magic (6-15) face the much-improved Charlotte Bobcats (10-11) at 7 p.m. at Time Warner Cable Arena.

Vucevic, the Magic’s second-leading scorer (14.7 ppg.) and leading rebounder (10.9 rpg.), made it through an individual workout on Tuesday and went through the team’s shoot-around practice on Wednesday morning. He’s missed the past four games with a sprained left ankle. After going through a positive pregame workout, he was cleared to be back in the starting lineup tonight for the Magic. As a result, Andrew Nicholson will return to a reserve role.

The Magic certainly can use Vucevic considering how their offensive woes and rebounding struggles have played a big role in their six-game losing streak of late. They have been badly outrebounded each of the past four games and finding any offensive continuity has been difficult without the ability to play inside-out without Vucevic.

``(Vucevic’s return) changes a lot of things. It changes rebounding and rotations and I’m not sure how tall (6-foot-9 power forward) Glen (Davis) is, but he’s playing against centers,’’ Vaughn said. ``It changes guys coming off the bench with Andrew starting for us. It just changes a lot of the dynamics with our team.’’

Added Vucevic: ``When I’m out there I think we have good chemistry. We know how to play with each other. We got used to that with me starting and playing games before I got hurt. When I go out it’s a little different for the guys. Hopefully I’ll be back tonight or soon and we’ll get that chemistry back.’’

The Magic will need Vucevic’s long-armed defense and rebounding toughness to combat Charlotte’s Al Jefferson, a rugged big man who has given Orlando fits in the past. Vucevic got repeatedly burned by Jefferson’s pump fakes in a game in Utah last season, but he rebounded and played well against him in a second meeting. Now, he hopes to use that experience tonight against Jefferson.

``That’s a tough matchup because he’s a very good player. He’s one of the best in the post,’’ Vucevic said. ``He has a lot of good moves and a lot of pump fakes. He can shoot the mid-range and drive and I have to be smart with him.’’