It’s been a whirlwind since the big man was traded at the deadline, but he still remembers where he came from and also where he wants to go with the Bulls franchise.
The wardrobe has been limited.
Enough so that Nikola Vucevic can rattle off the items of clothing quite easily.
“Three sweat suits, two jeans, and two sweaters,’’ the Bulls big man said on Wednesday.
Basically, all Vucevic has been wearing since being traded from Orlando to the Bulls at the Mar. 25 deadline, and then playing nine of his first 10 games with his new team living out of a quickly-packed suitcase on the road.
“I do wash them,’’ he made sure to add.
So while the first showdown against his former Orlando teammates should have brought more emotion to his doorstep – like the tears that crept out when he was first traded – that would have required time for him sit around and think. Time he really hasn’t been allotted.
Traded on that Thursday, in Chicago for physicals and the playbook Cliff’s Notes on Friday, and then dropping 21 points and nine rebounds against the Spurs on a Saturday.
Nine different cities and three weeks later, Vucevic was playing his former team, as well as just his second game in his new home arena.
“My team in Orlando was very special to me,’’ Vucevic said. “I came there as a kid and I left nine years later, but what I’m most proud of is the last couple years because we went through a lot, went through a rebuild and then a rebuild a kind again, and then we finally made the playoffs two years in a row, and I was able to become a two-time All-Star.
“Hopefully fans will always remember me as someone who played hard, competed and gave his best. Hopefully they’ll remember my legacy there as something good. … At least now I can talk about it without crying, which is not bad. It’s a step forward.’’
At the same time, Vucevic knows there’s new steps to climb. Maybe even more daunting. Orlando does have some basketball history, but not like the banner-filled rafters he now plays under. When the Bulls gave up draft picks to add to this roster – specifically adding Vucevic – it wasn’t to stay in play-in game territory or even be a one-and-done in the playoffs like the Magic were.
Laker standout Anthony Davis calls Chicago the “Mecca of Basketball,’’ and has backing from the likes of Doc Rivers and Patrick Beverly.
There’s new expectations Vucevic is now playing with. More pressure. Maybe when he gets a minute to actually weigh that it will kick in. Hopefully not.
“This is like my second or third day in Chicago,’’ Vucevic said. “We haven’t played in front of fans or anything. I haven’t really got that feel yet fully of playing for the Bulls as I hope I can soon with fans in the arena. That’s the real thing.
“I put a lot of pressure on myself to bring it every night and compete and play the best I can to help the team win. I don’t think that will change much as far as, ‘Oh, it’s Orlando or Chicago.’ I always want to win. You want to help your team get to the highest level possible. I enjoy those moments.’’
Billy Donovan was once again asked about struggling rookie Patrick Williams in the starting lineup and possible changes moving forward, and while there are no plans to make a move, the coach made it very clear he will always do what’s best for the team.
“I wouldn’t say he’s untouchable,’’ Donovan said. “Patrick I don’t think is any different from any guy on this team. He would do whatever he could to help the group.’’