In just one game, the Chicago Bulls turned what was supposed to be a night for them to showcase why they were kept together into the exact opposite complete with sideline confrontations and players-only meetings.
“Just unhappy with some of the stuff that we were doing, and I, obviously, expressed it maybe a little bit more aggressive than I should have in the moment of the game,” Vucevic said via Darnell Mayberry of The Athletic on October 25. “But those happen. Heat of the moment. You’re trying to do what you can to help the team win.”
Pressed about what the issue was, Vucevic was rather direct.
“It wasn’t so much just my touches,” Vucevic said via 670 The Score. “I think stuff that we were running that could have maybe been better for us in the moment. And some of it was touches. But not necessarily for me or anything like that. Just overall stuff we talked about.”
Vucevic finished the game with 11 points, sinking five of his eight shot attempts. He had just two attempts after halftime.
Donovan downplayed the interaction in the game.
DeMar DeRozan led the team with 20 points but was 9-for-20 from the floor. Zach LaVine had 16 points on 4-for-16 shooting. The lack of touches has been an issue for Vucevic, particularly late in games, to the point where it was a talking point around his return this offseason. Neither Donovan nor Vucevic felt as though the confrontation would lead to anything more.
Billy Donovan Might Want to Get Nikola Vucevic Got the Ball
The Bulls were 16-9 in games that Vucevic attempted at least 16 shots last season. They were 23-14 in those situations the season before and yet it remains a source of contention within a locker room general manager Marc Eversley revealed felt a lack of togetherness last season.
They attempted to foster some this offseason with a team training camp in Tennessee.
Vucevic re-signed in Chicago on a three-year, $60 million contract ahead of free agency instead of exploring other options as he previously said he would. The Bulls big man previously spoke out about having to sacrifice the most out of the team’s three stars. And he has alluded to them needing better results this season or face changes to the roster.
“We know we can do better, and we have to do better,” Vučević said, per Yahoo Sports NBA reporter Jake Fischer on August 31. “And we know it’s kind of our last chance as this core of guys to do something.”
Zach LaVine: ‘It’s Time’ for Bulls’ Big 3 to Produce
Vucevic was not the only player to speak out on it, either. LaVine expressed similar sentiments about the Bulls’ big three.
“For how explosive we are as individually, it hasn’t been shown as a unit,” LaVine said via the team on media day on October 2. “So we have to do a better job with that, and it’s been 3 years of it. It’s time to put pen to paper and actually see some results.”
The Bulls next take the floor on October 27 against the Toronto Raptors.