Nikola Vucevic Sounds Off on Ejection as Bulls Beat Lakers

Nikola Vucevic, Chicago Bulls

Getty Nikola Vucevic #9 of the Chicago Bulls.

The Chicago Bulls did their job and rallied behind their teammate, Nikola Vucevic after he got tossed late in the second quarter of their win over the Los Angeles Lakers.

“Makes me feel less bad about myself,” Vucevic said, per Darnell Mayberry of The Athletic.

But it almost wasn’t to be. The Bulls were up by 13 points when Vucevic, perhaps upset about not getting a whistle on the other end, fouled Lakers superstar LeBron James and immediately approached an official following the call. Vucevic walked away but did so amid continued barking at the official drawing two technical fouls in a matter of seconds from two different refs.

Vucevic, to his credit, did not point fingers at anyone but himself after the game.

“Obviously it was a bad decision by me to react the way I did. In a game as important as it is for us, I got to be better, control my emotions a little bit better in the moment. Agree or disagree with the call, whatever happened, I just have to be better. My mistake. I’m just glad my teammates came through and got the game for us.”

The two-time All-Star finished with four points, two rebounds, one assist, and one steal in a little over 15 minutes of action. It’s just the second time he has failed to record a double-double in the last nine games.

Vucevic may feel less bad after the win but his act still did not sit well with head coach Billy Donovan.

Billy Donovan Finds Silver-Lining in Nikola Vucevic’s Ejection

“That was disappointing,” Donovan said, per Mayberry. “Because I think in that moment, there’s a lot of people affected by that. And Vooch is a really, really important piece. He’s a great teammate and a great guy. He’s just got to be able to be better in that moment. But it happened, and it’s over and done with. And we need different guys to step up and contribute.”

That duty fell on the shoulders of big man Andre Drummond and Derrick Jones Jr.

Drummond recorded 12 points, eight boards, and a pair of steals seeing his most action in over a month.

Jones added eight points in four rebounds of his own, hitting 2-of-3 triples.

“That’s what you have to do,” Donovan said. “Things happen in a game – bad call, ejection, missed free throws, missed shot – there’s so many things that can cause you to get down, and you’ve got to be able to just say, ‘Okay, what’s the next thing in front of me that I’ve got to do my job on?’ And not get too caught about what’s happened and what’s getting ready to come. And I felt like when that moment happened…we came together and we tried to help each other more.”

And Donovan will surely appreciate that Vucevic is directing all blame inward instead of continuing to rail against the officials which would only be to his and the Bulls’ detriment.

“Usually there is that kind of ‘cool off period’, to call it that,” Vucevic said. “But it is what it is. I obviously overreacted for sure. I deserved the first one, 100%. Second one, I should have done better and just shut my mouth. Turn around and focus on the game. I didn’t do that, and I got what I deserved.”

He also has to appreciate the approach Drummond takes to the game day in and day out.

Andre Drummond ‘Prepared for Moments Like This’

“It’s interesting: I walked in there, and I told Andre, I’m like, ‘You’re starting the third quarter’. And [Patrick Beverley]’s right into it – just trying to gas him up and get him going. And Alex [Caruso] is saying something to him. That happens, you know? I give our guys a lot of credit.”

Drummond has never been shy about his ability on the floor but his minutes have been inconsistent with Donovan favoring playing the matchups. But having another former two-time All-Star to turn to in these situations is a luxury.

“I put in the work day in and day out,” Drummond said, per NBC Sports Chicago Bulls insider K.C. Johnson. “I come in early and stay after to keep myself prepared for moments like this. It showed.”

Beverley, Caruso, and Drummond are all former Lakers.