Nikola Vučević doubles down on effort to rebound, help Bulls win
Vučević doubles down on effort to rebound from 2021-22 originally appeared on NBC Sports Chicago
Wednesday night’s matchup between the Chicago Bulls and Sacramento Kings features two of the top-three double-double producers in the NBA between league leader Domantas Sabonis, who has 53, and Nikola Vučević, who has 41.
Vučević is no stranger to ranking high in this department. He’s on pace to finish in the top-10 for his fifth straight season. Perhaps he and Nikola Jokić, who currently ranks second, discussed this over their shared meal in Denver last Wednesday.
As an aside and for the record, Jokić paid that night in Denver.
“When he was in Chicago, I did,” Vučević said, smiling.
Vučević long has prided himself on rebounding and consistency. So this double-double streak is significant to him, particularly since he’s only three shy of last season’s total of 44 when he tied for the seventh-most in the league with Luka Dončić.
“I don’t focus on how many double-doubles I have. But I do want to make sure I do my job rebounding. With the pace of the game and the amount of shots in a game these days, I should be able to get 10 rebounds as a big man,” Vučević said in an interview in Houston last week. “I’m a very prideful player. I always want to try to do my part for the team. I’m very consistent with that.
“Last season, I felt I was up and down a little bit while trying to figure out my role. So it was very important for me to come back and have a strong season and play well. I think I’ve been able to do that. Obviously, I wish we had a better record as a team. But we still have a lot to play for, and we’re all working hard and fighting until the end because we know we have the talent. That’s why we still believe.”
At averages of 17.7 points, 11.3 rebounds and 3.3 assists, Vučević’s numbers are almost identical to last season’s averages of 17.6 points, 11 rebounds and 3.2 assists. But his field-goal percentage is up to 51.2 from last season’s 47.3 and his 3-point percentage is at 35.4 after languishing at 31.4 last season.
Now is the obligatory time to mention that Vučević is headed for unrestricted free agency unless he and the Bulls agree to an extension before July 1. Vučević has talked plenty about this situation, saying he’s open to re-signing but that he’ll be weighing several factors, including the ability to win, length and terms of deal and comfort level for his family.
Vučević also had a big year statistically the last time he was headed to unrestricted free agency when he played with the Orlando Magic, who promptly signed him to a four-year, $100 million deal that expires after this season.
“This was an important year for me, not because of the contract but because I wanted to respond to having kind of an off season compared to my standards. I didn’t think it was a bad season. But it wasn’t up to my standards. It was important for me personally to respond,” Vučević said. “It helps that I’m more comfortable with my teammates and the way we’ve adjusted things a bit offensively. The rest will take care of itself.”
Until then, Vučević is focused on helping the Bulls win. If that approach leads to more double-doubles, he just views that as doing his job.
“I take a lot of pride the double-doubles, but I don’t focus on them. But I do think it shows consistency. It shows that I’m able to help the team,” Vučević said. “The rebounding is a big part of it. At this point, I’ve scored in so many ways so I think the scoring part comes very natural. But rebounding takes a lot of effort. As a big man, I take a lot of pride in that.”
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