Nikola Vucevic Clears Air After ‘Frustration’ Boils Over in Bulls’ Loss

Nikola Vucevic, Chicago Bulls

Getty Nikola Vucevic #9 of the Chicago Bulls.

The Chicago Bulls let their frustrations get the best of them in their 113-97 loss to the Milwaukee Bucks on March 2.

So much so that Alex Caruso drew a technical foul. Ayo Dosunmu pushed former Bull Patrick Beverley, who was playing his typical brand of defense against DeMar DeRozan.

And then there was Bobby Portis Jr., whom DeRozan took issue with because he “looked” at him.

The frustration play of the night, however, was Nikola Vucevic delivering a hard foul to Bucks guard A.J. Green, sending the latter crashing to the floor.

It also garnered an ejection for Vucevic, who finished the night with 17 points, nine rebounds, and three assists. He struggled from the floor, shooting 44.4% from the floor and going 1-for-3 from beyond the arc.

“It was just frustration, not just that no-call but a build-up,” said Vučević, per’s Sam Smith on March 2. “Was having a bit of a rough game, not playing as well. In the moment, I just lost my cool a little bit too much. I don’t know if (the flagrant-2) was deserved or not, but definitely not a foul I should’ve made.”

“It could’ve been a dangerous play,” Vucevic said. “Lucky nothing happened to AJ Green. I’ll stop by (the Bucks locker room) to apologize. Obviously, I just needed to hold my cool a little better.”

If that were the extent of the Bulls’ issues, that would have been enough.

DeMar DeRozan Matched Nikola Vucevic’s Frustration in Bulls Loss

Portis spent the better part of four seasons with the Bulls, and his tenure featured many high-intensity moments, including the spat with teammate Nikola Mirotic that preceded the former’s trade to the Washington Wizards in 2019.

He let the fans hear it as he got under Bulls players’ skin, including drawing an emotional reaction from DeRozan, whom officials tagged with a flagrant foul.

“I’m big on respect,” DeRozan told reporters postgame.

“I don’t play the whole games – staring down somebody, trying to disrespect anybody. I’m all with competing, doing your thing. All that. But if I feel anything disrespectful any type of way, I don’t accept that. Because I wouldn’t do it to nobody else, or stand over somebody or look over somebody. It’s just my respect of the game. So when I feel like it’s done to me, that’s when I take it a certain way.

DeRozan said Portis – who said that he imagines his opponents slapped his mother to get fired up, per Jay King for in 2015 – did it one time.

That was enough.

“That’s all it takes for me,” DeRozan said, per Smith. “I don’t care who it is; it could be the janitor in the hallway. Look at me a certain type of way…just play basketball, get the rebound and play. I’ve never been a player with the extra theatrics.”

Ayo Dosunmu Had DeMar DeRozan’s Back

At one point in the game, DeRozan matched up with Beverley. Dosunmu watched his teammate probe unsuccessfully in the face of Beverley’s handsy brand of defense.

The third-year guard Dosunmu had seen enough rough stuff happen to his mentor, DeRozan.

Head Coach Billy Donovan called for Vucevic and the rest of the Bulls to find better, more productive ways to channel their frustration. Donovan also said that he alerted the officiating crew early on in the contest that the game was heading in the direction it did.

Joe Cowley of the Chicago Sun-Times noted that Beverley rubbed several of his Bulls teammates — including Vucevic — the wrong way last season too.

That played a role in the Bulls letting him walk this past offseason.