We’ve all been there. A moment of frustration that spills over, perhaps in ways that we might otherwise not prefer. Such is likely the case for Chicago Bulls star Nikola Vucevic who went viral for all of the wrong reasons.
Vucevic finished with 18 points on an efficient 6-for-9 shooting with seven rebounds and two assists in their 125-119 loss to the New Orleans Pelicans.
But he also posted the second-worst plus-minus on the team at minus-15.
“They made shots, we didn’t,” Vucevic said via Rob Schaefer of NBC Sports Chicago. “They executed on the offensive end. [Brandon Ingram] made a couple tough shots where I thought we did a pretty good job defensively…Obviously, it was a close game, but a lot of things happened that we could have done better that would have helped us.”
The Bulls won the turnover battle against the Pelicans 16-15 – an improvement from their 20 giveaways a game prior against the Toronto Raptors. But they were whistled for 23 personal fouls to the Pels’ 18.
Vucevic drew a technical foul in the second quarter after chucking the ball aggressively toward an official following a traveling violation.
But it was an earlier play that got social media buzzing about the Bulls’ big man.
At the 4:32-mark of the first quarter, and with the Bulls boasting a double-digit lead, Vucevic was called for his first traveling violation. Vucevic got a favorable matchup with New Orleans guard Jose Alvarado on him in the high post.
While attempting to transition from backing Alvarado down to attempting a pull-up jump shot, referee Nick Buchert called out the infraction.
Vucevic, in response, appeared to stick his middle finger up at the referee.
Play continued with no further repercussions from the incident. But it remains to be seen if the league will do anything. They have attempted to tighten up on the interactions between officials and players after several high-profile incidents in recent years.
Bounceback by Vucevic
Vucevic is on pace to average his fewest points since 2018 and his fewest assists since the 2017 season, both while with the Orlando Magic. Despite the slow start, Vucevic’s start to the season should be considered solid.
“That [statistical dropoff] shouldn’t bother the Bulls one bit,” writes Zach Buckley for Bleacher Report. “Not when he’s also grabbing a career-best 12.3 rebounds, splashing 38.9 percent of his long-range looks, and ranking 11th among centers with 3.2 assists. He’s doing what a support player should, and he seems more comfortable with his place on the pecking order.”
Last year, Vucevic was one of just three players to average at least 17 points and 11 rebounds while appearing in at least 70 games.
He’s also posting his best defensive rating since 2020, per Cleaning The Glass.
“His strengths get masked a bit by this roster,” Buckley writes of the two-time All-Star, “and his defensive limitations can be tricky to hide, too. But he deserves credit for morphing his game to try to make this work.”
There is no better time for Vucevic to figure out the fit than in a contract year, especially when both sides have already expressed an interest in keeping the relationship going.
Vooch Not Alone
Vucevic’s teammate, DeMar DeRozan, also drew the ire of the refs who had drawn his ire after failing to blow the whistle on his drive to the basket as the Bulls trailed 63-58 with about nine minutes to go in the third quarter.
He still did not agree with the no-call after the game.
“I thought I did [get fouled],” DeRozan said. “Did it look like it? I mean, I thought I did but it is what it is…I mean it sucks. It’s frustrating. It’s frustrating as hell. Just not giving ourselves an opportunity to see what could have happened.”
Head coach Billy Donovan simply said that he believes there are calls to be made but they are not always getting called.
Regardless, the Bulls will need to do a better job of channeling that energy on the court.