Nikola Vucevic Offers Telling Statement on Bulls’ Recent Surge

Nikola Vucevic, Chicago Bulls

Getty Nikola Vucevic #9 of the Chicago Bulls.

The Chicago Bulls logged their sixth win in their last nine outings, a stretch which includes their first winning streak of the season.

After a 5-14 start to the campaign, the wins – and the approach – have rejuvenated the team.

“We’ve been enjoying playing,” said Nikola Vučević, per Sam Smith of on December 19. “Each night it’s a different guy stepping up. All of us are supporting each other. You can just feel that. And when you play that way, it’s contagious and just brings out positive energy and guys enjoy playing with each other. We haven’t been as stagnant as we were early on.”

So what changed? Vucevic points to their aggressive and unselfish play on the floor keeping everyone involved.

“We’ve been getting downhill, finding the open guy, making the extra pass. That’s how you get everybody involved. The ball is going to find the main scorers and it’s our job to find everyone else and involve everyone and it’s contagious when you do.”

The easy answer for anyone on the outside would be to point to the absence of Zach LaVine.

LaVine has missed the last nine games with foot inflammation. The Bulls also have a better net efficiency differential without LaVine (plus-0.1) than they do with him (minus-8.1), per Cleaning The Glass.

Nikola Vucevic Taking Advantage of Bulls’ Surge

While he has never mentioned LaVine by name, Vucevic has been vocal in the past about everyone needing to be more willing to sacrifice for the greater good.

He has also pointed to how much he has had to sacrifice since the Bulls acquired him.

“We know what works, so we have to stick with and continue to trust one another whether the ball is going in or not, play for each other,” Vucevic said, per Smith. “There’s a lot of work ahead, but a good first step and we understand this is the only way it’s going to work for us and we have to stay with it.”

Vucevic has been a big beneficiary of how the team has played of late.

He has averaged 19.4 points on 51.5% true shooting with 11.3 rebounds, 4.3 assists, and 1.1 blocks in that nine-game span.

Insider Sheds Light on Zach LaVine’s Return Timeline

Chris Haynes of Bleacher Report reported that LaVine was aiming for the first week of January for his return, roughly one month from when he first went down.

“You look at LaVine and his health status, I’m told that he could possibly return from his injury probably the first week of January,” Haynes said on December 18. “So it’s still a little time with him being out. He wants to make sure he doesn’t have any setbacks when he returns.”

That is in line with the initial diagnosis.

Head coach Billy Donovan did note that LaVine would need a “ramp up” period before getting back out on the floor for a game. Donovan also spoke to just what kind of teammate LaVine has been during his time off the court.

“He really, really misses the game,” Donovan said, per NBC Sports Chicago’s K.C. Johnson on December 18. “The other thing is he has really been great on the bench, in the locker room pulling for those guys. Whenever he’s able to get back with us, he’s always been a good team guy. He’s always had [a] good response to his teammates.”