There was plenty of nostalgia for Bulls center Nikola Vucevic on Friday night as he returned to Orlando for the first time since being traded in March, writes K.C. Johnson of NBC Sports Chicago. Vucevic, who spent eight-and-a-half seasons with the Magic, got a warm reception from fans during player introductions and again after a video tribute.
“It was definitely emotional just being back in this building and seeing all the people I’ve met throughout the years and friendships I’ve built,” Vucevic said. “It was a lot to take in for sure. … It’s a special place for me and it always will be special for me to come back.”
Vucevic nearly missed his return to Orlando because of COVID-19, but he was able to start playing again Wednesday after being sidelined for about two weeks. After posting 16 points and eight rebounds in 29 minutes against the Magic, he said his comeback is going well.
“It’s been a little better than I thought it would be, for sure. But I’m still not there 100%, which is expected,” Vucevic said of his conditioning. “It’s difficult because it’s not like an injury where you can do the bike or lift. For 10 days, I was not allowed to do anything. As much as I enjoy laying on my couch, after 10 days it’s not easy to come back. Just gotta work through it.”
There’s more on the Bulls:
- Wendell Carter Jr. was surprised to be sent to Orlando in the trade for Vucevic, but he said he’ll be “forever grateful” to the Bulls for drafting him with the seventh pick in 2018, Johnson tweets.
- With 20 points on 9-of-11 shooting, Coby White turned in his best performance Friday in the seven games since returning from shoulder surgery, notes Rob Schaefer of NBC Sports Chicago. White has also looked more active on defense than he was in his first two NBA seasons, according to Schaefer. “It’s been a real focus point since I’ve been back,” White said. “We’re so good defensively, I’m just trying to fit in.”
- DeMar DeRozan has transformed his game by moving to power forward, per Seerat Sohi of The Ringer. The switch has been happening gradually over the last two seasons, but it became necessary after DeRozan signed with a Bulls team that already had Lonzo Ball, Zach LaVine and Alex Caruso in the backcourt.