Nikola Vucevic found out exactly how much a middle finger aimed in the general direction of a fan costs.
The fine? Vucevic is making about $270,000 per game this season, so couch cushion money for him.
As far as publicly being put in the corner? Well, that’s actually a good thing for Vucevic right now.
With 2:46 left in the loss to New Orleans on Wednesday, it looked like it would be Vucevic that would play hero, hitting his second three-pointer within 90 seconds and giving the Bulls the one-point lead.
Very, and not just because of the timing of it, but where he hit it from.
Entering this season, the 32-year-old shot a majority of his three-pointers from the top of the arc. To Vucevic, the corner was a dark cave that he rather not explore.
While it’s the easiest three to hit because of the distance – 22 feet compared to 23’9 everywhere else – it just wasn’t in his job description. Not surprising, since most centers that are gifted enough to stretch the floor and shoot threes are often at the top of the arc for spacing purposes or just where they end up in transition.
The corner three that Vucevic hit against the Pelicans, however, was his seventh of the season in 10 attempts.
He hit five corner threes the entire 2021-22 season, three the entire 2020-21 campaign, and five the year before that.
Daddy’s got a new pair of shoes, and just in time for a contract year.
“We’re 13 games in so far? I’ve already made more threes from the corner than I have at any time in my career [in a season],” Vucevic said. “I’m in that position a lot, especially toward the end of the game because of our spacing, giving other guys space so they can work and get to the paint, and then when the defense collapses they’re able to find me.”
That doesn’t mean that Vucevic is totally comfortable there yet, and that’s understandable.
Just look at some other big men that like to shoot the three. Nikola Jokic took 288 threes last season, and only 12 from the corners, making two. Joel Embiid put up 251 threes last year, with 16 from the corners, making four.
“I really haven’t shot it much my whole career, so I’ve had to work at it,” Vucevic said. “I’m working on it daily. I know the work I put in and I know every shot I put up I have a chance of making it.”
Work that’s really appreciated by two of his teammates in Zach LaVine and DeMar DeRozan, especially because of the benefit they get out of it.
DeRozan is a mid-range maestro, so when the paint is absent of an opposing big that means more room to operate. Meanwhile, LaVine has finally looked a bit more explosive the last two games, so when Vucevic is outside that gives LaVine a clear runway to take off from.
Late in games when the Bulls have played more isolation, Vucevic in the corner is a great option to have.
“Above the break he hasn’t shot it great this year,” coach Billy Donovan said of Vucevic. “His corner threes have been really elite and it does a couple things: One, it takes the team’s other big away from the basket, we can drive the ball a little bit more. Then he’s always there as an outlet, and if he can’t get the shot he can get it to the next action.”
Hopefully an action that involves flipping a pass to a teammate, rather than flipping the middle finger.