New Bulls center Nikola Vucevic: "I can fit right in."

"I think we’ll fit great together." Vucevic on playing with Zach LaVine
by Sam Smith
Remind Me Later
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It turns out not just the kids are upset when leaving Disneyworld.

The Bulls new All-Star center Nikola Vucevic, who is expected to make his debut Saturday night when the Bulls play in San Antonio, broke down and was unable to speak for several minutes during a media conference call when asked by an Orlando reporter about leaving the Magic.

"Can you describe any element of sadness in leaving Orlando?" Vucevic was asked about playing nine of his 10 NBA seasons in Orlando.

"Yeah, for sure, I mean, uh, I'm getting emotional," Vucevic stammered in a moving few minutes. "But like I said, when I was, when I wrote that text (about leaving), it was very difficult for me to do that….

Vucevic attempted to compose himself, obviously on the verge of tears, which appeared to show his loyalty and commitment, but also his passion for his team and the game.

Finally, after a few minutes, Vucevic added, "To me, the hardest part was just the people. Over nine years, you're going to meet a lot of great people. That was just the hardest for me, just leaving that place. Obviously, it meant a lot to me. Like I said, I came as a kid and left as a man. I guess you guys know the answer with my reaction. Leaving that place after so many years obviously was hard."

The Bulls then ended the Zoom session.

Which also suggested a new start for both the Bulls and Vucevic.

Though it was difficult to watch Vucevic flash through the events, people and places where he matured from an after thought big man who was the smallest part of a major trade to a league star, it also was enlightening to see how much Vucevic cared.

You don't always find that in people, and it should be a welcome addition to the Bulls. In addition to his seven feet by the basket and 25 points that have been going through it recently.

Vooch and Sato

Vucevic and Satoransky at shootaround prior to Saturday's game against San Antonio

"When I got the call from the Magic GM John Hammond, it was for sure a little bit of a shock, although I knew there were talks going on and it was a possibility," Vucevic acknowledged. "Once it happens and you realize you're actually going through with it, it's a little different. But I'm obviously very happy to be here. I think I can fit right in with the group of guys we have. I think my style of play fits as well. Talking to a lot of players and Coach Donovan, a lot of stuff he wants to run and how he wants to play and how he sees the game of basketball, I can fit right in.

"I enjoy playing the way that they play," Vucevic said. "I've watched them a lot. It's going to take a little bit of time to adjust and for them to adjust to me, but looking forward to this first game."

Vucevic is expected to start even as Bulls coach Billy Donovan is loath to reveal his starters prior to games. There's also a bit of payback for the Bulls Saturday as they try to mix in several new players with the recent loss to the Spurs when the Bulls were outscored by 20 points in the fourth quarter. Vucevic figures to start with Thad Young returning to the bench. Lauri Markkanen likely will remain at power forward, now in a better position with a physical seven footer by his side. Then it should be Patrick Williams, Zach LaVine and Tomas Satoransky.

Though with several more new additions to be mixed in, including Al-Farouq Aminu, who came in the trade with Vucevic, there will be a period of adjustment. Daniel Theis from Boston joins Monday against Golden State. Mad scientist Donovan will be at work with Garrett Temple also expected to return from a sprained ankle. LaVine was listed on the injury report with a sprained ankle, but he said Friday he expected to play. "A lot that Zach likes to do, I can help him with that," Vucevic said of his All-Star teammate last month. "He can help me with a lot of things. I think our two-man game can be very good. It's going to take some time for us to get to know each other and build that chemistry. I think when you have two high-caliber players and players with high IQ that know how to play the game and play to win, I think it won't take us long. I think we'll fit great together."

Thad Young, Zach LaVine, Nikola Vucevic

Vucevic with Thad Young and Zach LaVine at shootaround prior to Chicago's Saturday night game against the Spurs.

With Donovan working feverishly already to bind it all.

"With Billy, actually first night I got in we spoke for a good 20 to 30 minutes," said Vucevic. "We went over all the stuff they run, that they used to run and how I can fit in and what I think I can help the team and things that I like and stuff we used to do in Orlando and the defense a little bit. Our approach to the game, the way we see the game and all that, is very similar. I feel like I can fit right in. We got along very well. I think it's something as time goes on we're gonna build that relationship and it's gonna be great for both of us."

Vucevic was born in Switzerland and grew up in Belgium as his father traveled around as a professional basketball player for about two decades. The family moved to Montenegro when Nikola was a teenager. He came to the U.S. at 17 for prep school and eventually played three years at USC before being drafted by the 76ers and traded after one season to Orlando.

Like most kids growing up around the world interested in basketball, he was a Jordan--and thus Bulls—fan. The Bulls posted a picture of a young Vucevic in Bulls apparel after the trade.

"As soon as I got traded my family reached out to me and we talked about the picture," Vucevic said. "But yeah, I was a big fan then. I watched so many of the Bulls games and so many of the Jordan highlights and everything else, watched The Last Dance when it came out. So I guess it was meant to be in a way for sure. I think, I'm not sure, but I might still have that sweatsuit somewhere. I'll have to ask my mother."

The Bulls will settle for Vucevic in the current Bulls No. 9.

"When the trade happened, I felt like I could be a guy that I could come in and help (them) take the next step," said Vucecic. "I feel like my experience and everything can help with some of those guys and feel like they're right there; there's not a lot missing. Not just me, but all the other moves that were made over the deadline. I think getting Daniel Theis is a huge pickup, great player. I know also Al-Farouq Aminu came with me here from Orlando. Javonte Green is also a good player for us and Troy Brown. So I think that all those guys can help and with the people that we have here. It's gonna take some time for us to all fit in. But I think that there's a good group here."

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The contents of this page have not been reviewed or endorsed by the Chicago Bulls. All opinions expressed by Sam Smith are solely his own and do not reflect the opinions of the Chicago Bulls or its Basketball Operations staff, parent company, partners, or sponsors. His sources are not known to the Bulls and he has no special access to information beyond the access and privileges that go along with being an NBA accredited member of the media.

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