Nikola Vucevic Starting to Get Strength Back in Broken Hand

By John Denton
Jan. 21, 2018

BOSTON – Orlando Magic center Nikola Vucevic’s favorite NFL team is the Philadelphia Eagles, but his favorite non-NBA athlete is New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady.

It just so happens that Vucevic and Brady were both in the New England area on Sunday and dealing with hand injuries, and the Magic center joked that he’d be more than happy to offer up a few tips on dealing with the limitations to a hand.

``I really like Brady and it’s crazy what happened to him, but he’s a great player and I’m sure he’ll find a way to fight through that injury of his,’’ Vucevic said of Brady, who was expected to play in Sunday’s AFC title game despite suffering a gash across his throwing hand. ``Everybody was talking about (Brady’s injury), but I’m hoping he will be fine. I’m hoping for the Eagles and the Patriots in the Super Bowl.’’

Vucevic fractured a bone in his left hand on Dec. 23 and had surgery three days later. He recently got the split off of his hand, allowing him to start doing some limited basketball drills. Mostly, he’s been reduced to plunging his fist into a bucket of rice and squeezing exercise balls at various times throughout the day.

``I did the rice bucket a couple of times to strengthen my grip and my forearm and I’ve done a couple of exercises grabbing and releasing the rice while trying to make a fist,’’ said Vucevic, who has a six-inch scar along the backside of his hand. ``Little by little (the strength is returning) and the best thing is just me using my hand because that will help it. I’m just doing stuff every day. Even video games, will help because I’m using my hand.’’

Vucevic got a scare on Thursday when the Magic played in Cleveland and he was seated along the team’s bench during the game. When teammate Jonathon Simmons charged toward the bench while chasing a loose ball, Vucevic had to think fast to protect his hand.

``Simms was chasing a ball and was coming right at me,’’ recalled Vucevic, who isn’t yet able to palm a basketball with one hand. ``I actually just lifted it up (overhead) to keep it out of the way. It actually feels much better after working with the ball in practice. I just need it to heel a little more.’’

ROOKIE READINESS: Before he ever played a game with the Magic, rookie forward Jonathan Isaac said he would compare himself more with the players picked in his draft class than NBA veterans who are sometimes a decade older than him.

With that in mind, it had to be difficult for Isaac – who has played just 15 games this season because of a troublesome ankle injury – watching Boston forward Jayson Tatum star for the Celtics. Isaac and Tatum have known each other since their AAU days, they split two meetings last season while playing for Florida State and Duke and they share the same agent (Jeffrey Weshcler). Isaac, who was placed in an injury rehabilitation program on Dec. 30, said he’s proud of the success that Tatum (13.8 ppg., 5.4 rpg.) has had as a rookie and he called him ``a dude who can score at all levels.’’ In time, Isaac hopes he will be able to do the same.

``I know where I’m at and I’m happy for other guys in my class who are playing well,’’ said Isaac, who showed great promise early in the season before suffering a gruesome ankle injury on Nov. 11. ``I look to (others in his draft class) as encouragement that I’m going to be where I’m supposed to be in a matter of time and I can’t wait until I get there.’’

Isaac is still going through closely monitored workouts with the Magic’s medical team. The focus is still on building the strength and flexibility in his ankle. Isaac tried returning to action three times only to have pain return in his ankle. This time, he is proceeding slowly to make sure the ankle is fully recovered before he plays again.

``Everything is coming along great and I’ve been able to start doing one-dribble moves and stuff to put more pressure on it,’’ Isaac said. ``So it’s coming along great and I feel great.’’

HIGH PRAISE FOR MACK: Before the Magic signed Shelvin Mack last summer, head coach Frank Vogel turned to close friend, Brad Stevens, to find out more about the veteran combo guard’s style of play and personality. Vogel and Stevens have known each other for years from their time in Indianapolis – when Vogel was coaching the Pacers and Stevens was leading Butler University – and he greatly valued the coach’s advice considering that Mack starred collegiately at Butler.

``He was obviously very, very high on him and we were excited to bring him into the fold,’’ Vogel said. ``He was very good for us (Thursday) when he didn’t miss a shot. He’s always ready, whether it’s big minutes or short minutes, and he knows how to impact a game.’’

Stevens watched tape of Orlando’s game against Cleveland, and he wasn’t surprised to see the mild-mannered Mack factor heavily into the game. Mack made all five of his shots, including converting a go-ahead basket with 32 seconds to play.

``He’s obviously one of my favorites and it’s been fun to watch him over the last few weeks and over the course of his career,’’ Stevens said of Mack, who played at Butler from 2008-11. ``I think he’s always a guy who I have admired for his work ethic and his ability to give his team the best chance to win. I can’t say enough good things about him.’’

UP NEXT: Orlando will be on the practice floor on Monday before hosting the rebuilding Sacramento Kings on Tuesday night at the Amway Center. It will be the first meeting of the season between the two teams.

Orlando will be trying to win its second straight game at the Amway Center. The Magic thumped the Minnesota Timberwolves at the Amway Center last Tuesday. They are 8-12 at home this season.

Note: The contents of this page have not been reviewed or endorsed by the Orlando Magic. All opinions expressed by John Denton are solely his own and do not reflect the opinions of the Orlando Magic or their Basketball Operations staff, partners or sponsors.