Bulls’ Big Man Opens Up About Overcoming Adversity

Nikola Vucevic, Chicago Bulls

Getty Nikola Vucevic #9 of the Chicago Bulls gestures to a teammate.

This season has already been a bit of a roller coaster for the Chicago Bulls. The euphoria of their season-opening win was quickly replaced as they dropped back-to-back games against the Washington Wizards and a Cleveland Cavaliers team playing without Darius Garland.

That has since been replaced by cautious optimism as they have notched quality wins over the Boston Celtics and Brooklyn Nets while taking the Philadelphia 76ers to the wire.

The Bulls were short-handed in that one playing without Andre Drummond or Coby White.

There might not be a more well-equipped player to handle that sort of up-and-down nature than center Nikola Vucevic. He was acquired amid plenty of fanfare in 2020 before struggling last season and now is taking a new approach to the game’s ebbs and flows.

Vooch Knows His Value

“I’ve been doing this for a very long time,” said the 32-year-old Vucevic. “I know how good I am. I’m a two-time All-Star, so I didn’t get to where I am by chance. I know the work I put in, I know the time I put in.” (h/t Julia Poe/Chicago Tribune)

Vucevic noted that playing “every other night” in the NBA helps.

That was true for the big man against the Charlotte Hornets as he finished with a modest stat line by his standards – 14 points, 13 rebounds, and three assists.

However, it came a day after he struggled to just seven points (and 15 boards) against the Brooklyn Nets. It also gave him five double-doubles in the first nine games of the regular season.

Vucevic shared similar sentiments after the Bulls fell to the Philadelphia 76ers on October 29.

His rebounding has been key as he’s scoring less (and less efficiently) this season.

“I’ve always been a good rebounder. It’s something I take pride in being a big man. I’m just trying to stay aggressive. It’s something that we had issues with last year, the rebounding part, so I want to make sure I do my part on that end.”

He says the Bulls have made a concerted effort to attack the glass this year after ranking just 28th last season.

Bulls Rebounding Focus

There are many valid criticisms of the Bulls and how they have gone about constructing their roster. But it must be acknowledged that, if they don’t address an issue, they try to find different ways to mask it.

Much of the talk last season and over the summer was about the Bulls’ low three-point volume and how little they did to address it.

They are currently averaging fewer than 1.0 additional three per game to start this season.

The Bulls have been slightly more efficient from deep – 36.9% last season and 37.8% this year. But the real difference is they have given themselves more opportunities even if their shots don’t go in ranking 21st in second-chance points.

That might not seem very good – it is in the bottom third of the league, after all. But they ranked 28th last season making this a significant improvement.

“It’s something we talked about a lot, it’s something that hurt us a lot last year,” Vučević said. “We know we don’t necessarily have a size advantage against most teams. We’re putting a big emphasis on it. A lot of the rebounding part is just effort.”

The Bulls currently rank 17th in rebounds.

Their biggest leap coming on the offensive glass where they’ve gone from 29th in 2021 to 15th as it currently stands this year.

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