Nikola Vučević joined the Bulls amidst a condensed season, trying to gel quickly with a young roster and as the year comes to a close shared his excitement for what is to come.
Nikola Vucevic Monday morning sat down, as Bulls players have been doing all season for Zoom video sessions, in front of a curtain decorated with Bulls and Zenni sponsor logos. So what, reporters wanted to know, was management's message?
"Basic things," Vucecic said, pausing. "Nothing I really could share here."
So what the heck are you doing here, many began to think until Vucevic smiled and said, "I'm joking."
The end of the Bulls disappointing non-playin tournament season was no laughing matter. But the joy in Vucevic's dancing eyes suggested there's still good times to come from the trade that brought the 30-year-old, two-time All-Star to Chicago in March.
Nikola Vucevic's end-of-season press conference with Chicago media.
"It's been a crazy year," said Vucevic, who still averaged almost 22 points and 12 rebounds with the Bulls. "I don't feel like I was able to have the full experience of what it is to be a Bulls player with the fans and the city and everything because of the situation with Covid. But as far as things within the organization, everything has been positive from Day 1. From the players welcoming me, the coaching staff, the front office, the organization as a whole; it's all been positive for me. Billy (Donovan) same the way he used me. Billy put me in position to be successful and for me to play at a high level.
"I just think because of the situation we didn't have time to practice, we didn't really have time to gel together," said Vucevic. "We never were able to be at our best the way we wanted to. But all this it kind of makes me excited for going into next year. There's a lot of positives here, a lot of potential for us to be a good team next year. I think guys are motivated to do that.''
And perhaps none more than Vucevic. The Bulls pushed most of the draft chips in for the seven footer. They traded two first round picks, including this season's unless it's top four. So Vucevic also is anxious to show the Bulls they made the correct decision.
"I'm definitely a guy that's like, ‘Let's let this (trade) play out and see how it turns out," Vucevic cautioned. "I've said it before, this trade wasn't just made for this year. I think that it was made for the future of the franchise. Our goal this year was to make it and we didn't make it, so that's disappointing. But I think moving forward people around the league, players around the league, everybody around the league, especially us, we know that this franchise is about winning, and we want to get there. I think we have the right pieces to do it, but I think it's very, very early to judge the trade. It's only been two or three months. Things happen; sometimes things take longer to come together. So I think it's too early to judge it. Next year will obviously show more, and then the year after that. Obviously, we don't have five years to figure it out. But it also can't be judged in two months. So it's on us now to go into next year and play better, get to where we want to get.''
That will take a village, as it were, more teamwork, more practice time and more urgency.
"The main thing is we just have to learn to win as a team," said Vucevic. "I think that takes time. You have to go through certain ups and downs to get there. I think this team was never put in a position where it had that pressure to win. I think you have to go through that. I think this past two or three months, whatever it was, we had when we did play some games that were very important for us helped a little bit and gave us a taste of that. Hopefully into next year with the help of training camp from the beginning, we will have that mentality to do it right away and be able to learn how to win together as a team throughout the whole season. That's the main thing we need, how to figure it out. Now I think we know going into next year we can't have those games where it takes us two, three quarters to wake up; we have to be ready from the beginning."
And in a sense so was Vucevic to be in that Bulls uniform.
Vucevic admitted in a recent trip to the United Center he couldn't resist stopping at the Jordan status in the Atrium to take pictures. Just another tourist.
"I always wanted to see that statue," Vucevic acknowledged. "I had never had a chance to before. Obviously, I knew it was there. So when we did team pictures, we walked right by it. I had to stop and take a picture of it. To me, Jordan is obviously the greatest to ever do it. I grew up idolizing him. I still do. I still watch his highlights. I'm a big MJ guy. I'm really looking forward to hearing stories from people who have been here a long time about him. Obviously, MJ is MJ. So when I walked by it, I had to take a picture."
And now the Bulls need for Vooch to Rule.