Denton: Vucevic Apologizes to Teammates for Ejection

By John Denton
March 22, 2014

SALT LAKE CITY – Nikola Vucevic braced himself for the scolding call, fearing for the worst. But when his father, former professional basketball player Borislav Vucevic, let him off the hook for getting ejected from Wednesday’s game, the Orlando Magic center was able to breathe a sigh of relief.

Vucevic picked up two first-half technical fouls – one for arguing a call and another for lightly flipping the ball back at a prone Channing Frye – to earn the first ejection of his professional career. Orlando went on to lose the game and badly missed Vucevic’s post presence late in the game.

Vucevic usually talks to his father, who played professionally for 24 years in Europe, following every game. And often, the criticism for his play can be quite harsh. But this time, the father, came with some firm, but comforting advice.

``Actually, it wasn’t as bad as I thought it would be. He just told me that I have to be smarter. He said it’s not that you hurt yourself, you hurt your team,’’ Vucevic said. ``He told me that if I want to be one of the best players on the team and one of the leaders, I have to be there for the team and not do stuff like that. He just said overall it’s a bad look. But it wasn’t like he yelled or anything. I thought he would, but he didn’t.’’

Vucevic, who went into Saturday’s game in Utah third on the team in scoring (14 ppg.) and first in rebounding (10.8 rpg.), said he addressed his teammates Friday at practiced and apologized for getting thrown out of the game. Vucevic said in the future he will focus more on his play and worry less about the officiating.

``I apologized to them that it wasn’t smart on my part, which it wasn’t,’’ he said. ``I learned from it. I kind of got carried away. I even surprised myself because I really don’t do that. I just need to focus on what happens with the team and what I can control.’’

RUNNING MORE: Magic coach Jacque Vaughn said he usually makes a point before games to tell his team to run every chance that it gets in games in hopes of getting more easy baskets. However, Orlando ranks just 21st in the NBA in fast break points (11.4 points per game). Still, that total is better than last season when the Magic averaged just 9.9 fast break points per game.

Strangely, Orlando averages nearly two more fast break baskets at home (13.4 points per game) than on the road (9.5 points per game).

Those fast break numbers don’t account for the overall pace of the game. Of the nine teams below the Magic this season in that particular statistical category, seven are on course to make the playoffs. Indiana, Chicago and Memphis are three of the league’s best defensive teams and they usually prefer slower-paced games.

The Magic seem to have the speedy, young legs with which to be a running team what with Victor Oladipo, Maurice Harkless and Arron Afflalo in the starting lineup and Tobias Harris and E’Twaun Moore in the regular rotation. Even the Magic’s big men – Nikola Vucevic and Kyle O’Quinn – run the floor well.

There are a variety of factors that go into a team’s ability to run the break, namely the willingness to sprint down the floor on a consistent basis. Also, getting defensive stops is a must to run and the Magic rank just 20th in the league in points allowed and 15th in field goal percentage allowed.

``We’ll get there. Everybody talks about running, but it’s tough to run in this league,’’ Vaughn said. ``It starts with getting stops. Getting out and running wide is something that we did here (in Utah) when I was a young player. It’s an effort, every-day thing that has to be a part of your makeup.’’

Vaughn said there also has to be a selflessness about players to consistently push the ball on the break. Having players sprint back to fill lanes sometimes opens opportunities up for others and they don’t even get the ball. Still, there effort is necessary and meaningful.

``I’m petitioning the ESPN highlights,’’ Vaughn said, saying that effort plays are rarely shown on the sports shows. ``It’s an unselfish act that you have to do throughout the game. We’re not saying just because you run that you are going to get the basketball. But you might be opening it up for somebody else. You might get it once and you ran 15 times – so as you grow older and mature understand that that’s part of winning, there’s a chance that (running more) can happen.’’