Nikola Vučević reflects on Bulls transition before Magic reunion

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K.C. Johnson
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Vučević reflects on Bulls transition ahead of Magic reunion originally appeared on NBC Sports Chicago

The day after the Bulls acquired him from the Magic, Nikola Vučević took several seconds to try to compose himself -- unsuccessfully -- when asked by an Orlando-based reporter what his eight-and-a-half season stint with the organization meant to him.

Speaking Wednesday following the Bulls’ morning shootaround in preparation for his first game against his former team, Vučević fielded a question from the same reporter, Josh Robbins of The Athletic.

“I'm glad I can actually answer your question this time,” Vučević cracked.

The last three weeks have been a whirlwind for Vučević, who said his family arrived in Chicago on Tuesday. That’s because nine of the Bulls’ first 10 games since the trade deadline have been road games.

“I had like three sweatsuits, two jeans and two sweaters that I've been wearing for three weeks now. I wash them, I do wash them. We stay at nice hotels so they have quick turnarounds,” Vučević said with a laugh. “It has been pretty crazy kind of figuring everything out on the go. Obviously, there's the basketball part and getting adjusted to the team, the system, everything. Meeting the coaches and players all that. But I think one thing that's helped me a lot is that everybody here has been so welcoming and trying to help me fit in as much as possible.”

Ahead of just his second home outing since joining the team, which tips off a three-game homestand, Vučević was also asked if he'd begun to notice the different pressures between donning a Magic uniform and a Bulls one.

"This is like my second or third day in Chicago. We haven’t played in front of fans or anything. I haven’t really got that feel yet fully of playing for the Bulls as I hope I can soon with fans in the arena," Vučević said. "That’s the real thing. I put a lot of pressure on myself to bring it every night and compete and play the best I can to help the team win. I don’t think that will change much as far as, ‘Oh, it’s Orlando or Chicago.’ I always want to win. I’m a big competitor. Wherever I’m playing, that won’t change for me much.

"Obviously, I know I was brought to help the team win. That’s something I do want to help and it’s something I cherish. It’s something you want to do as an NBA player. You want to help your team get to the highest level possible. I enjoy those moments."

The Bulls are just 3-7 since management’s busy trade deadline day, which also brought Daniel Theis, Troy Brown Jr. and the seldom-used Al-Farouq Aminu and Javonte Green into the fold. Vučević will match up with former Bull Wendell Carter Jr. at the United Center Wednesday night.

“It will definitely be special and weird for me at the same time,” Vučević said of facing the Magic. “It’s a team I spent a lot of years with. There’s been a lot of changes but there’s some players I played for years with, the coaching staff. It will be weird to see me in a Bulls jersey and playing against a Magic jersey, but I’m looking forward to it.

“I expect some trash-talking, which I don’t do a lot but I’m going to have to bring it. Hopefully we can play a good game, get a win.”

That’s because the Bulls have dropped three straight, raising defensive concerns that Vučević said the coaching staff is addressing with players. Chemistry, and lack of practice time, also is a popular topic.

Vučević pointed to the growing pains the Magic experienced during his early years there and, eventually, playoff appearances and two All-Star designations for him. That’s a blueprint he hopes to follow with the Bulls.

“One thing about this team: They're fighters. They really want to win. They really compete. They bring it every night. And so I think we just have to work through some things of playing together, learning each other and just growing pains that you have to go through in this league when you're a young team,” Vučević said. “We'll be alright.

I think we might be putting also too much pressure on ourselves that it has to be like ‘now, now’ instead of working our way through it. But it's just all part of the learning process, I think we're getting there slowly. We have a lot of good pieces, good coach and a front office that's very aggressive for us to win now. So hopefully, things can turn around here quickly.”

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