Polarizing Star Delivers Reality Check to Bulls Fans

Nikola Vucevic, Chicago Bulls

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

Time travel is not yet possible for the Chicago Bulls (8-11) or their fans. Not unless you have a Delorean and a working flux capacitor at your disposal. Otherwise, what’s done is done which flies in the face of one of the longest-standing traditions in sports fandom: playing the “what if…?” game.

Hypothetical trade scenarios are a regular occurrence for the Bulls these days. But it’s a deal they have already completed that has often been a sore spot for fans of the team.

There is one deal in particular, though, that they need to move past says the player involved.

‘‘I know some people want to bring back the trade, the picks that were given [also a first-rounder in 2023], but it happened,’’ Vucevic said via Joe Cowley of the Chicago Sun-Times. ‘‘If it didn’t, it’s not for sure the Bulls would have picked Wagner or hit on the pick. Who knows what would have happened?’’

Vucevic Has Been Over Backlash

The deal in question sent big man Wendell Carter Jr., Al-Farouq Aminu, and two first-round picks to the Orlando Magic in exchange – has been widely panned with Carter’s breakout and the instant success of Franz Wagner who was taken with the first of the two picks owed.

Orlando recently came to the United Center and beat the Bulls 108-107 – on a buzzer-beating three by guard Jalen Suggs – rubbing more salt in wounds that still exist for some.

An inability to replicate his production from his final season in Orlando is the cause.

“This team wouldn’t work if I tried to play the same way I did in Orlando,” asserted the two-time All-Star whose production has dropped in each of the last two years after an initial dip following the trade. “I can’t help it if people don’t see that. We have two big-time scorers, so it’s about me adjusting my game to them.”

He brushed off trade rumors on social media over the offseason.

Vucevic’s stats have taken yet another hit this season. His 57.1% true shooting is his highest since 2018-19 and the second-best mark of his career but his 17.3 PER is the second-worst.

He has gone from being a top option in the post to a third option used heavily on the perimeter.

‘‘One of my best qualities is I’ve adjusted my game while still being effective in different ways,” Vucevic said. “Some of the stuff I’m the best at, I’m not able to do in this offense. But it’s for the good of the team. That’s what matters.’’

The 11-year veteran said that fans are generally nice in person but social media is different as people say anything without fear of repercussions. But Vucevic has not been one to shy away from poking back at agitators on Twitter even amid swirling trade rumors this past summer. He’s also been a part of the Bulls’ better lineups, albeit ones they have used sparingly.

Making Vucevic Lineups Work

In 163 qualifying possessions this season, the Bulls are posting a plus-33.2 net rating with Vucevic on the floor but the young duo of Ayo Dosunmu and Patrick Williams on the sidelines, per Cleaning The Glass.

They are minus-9.4 in the 633 minutes he has shared the court with the two burgeoning youngsters.

This isn’t to put Vucevic’s struggles on either Dosunmu or Williams. But, in the final year of his contract, it could go a long way for Vucevic in negotiations to point out the context to the Bulls or, more importantly, another team next offseason.

There were reports of mutual interest in a contract extension but Vucevic suggests otherwise.

‘‘If it was something that they wanted to at least discuss, we would have been happy to do it,’’ Vucevic said. ‘‘But it sounds like they want to take their time, see how things go. I understand that. I know how business works. I only control what I can control. So whether it’s later in the season or in the summer, we’ll see.’’

The Bulls have been pegged for a mid-season shakeup since the summer. Extending Vucevic would have eliminated one of their better trade assets.

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