Central Notes: Vucevic, Cunningham, Pistons, Bickerstaff

Nikola Vucevic said the Bulls didn’t try to move him at this year’s trade deadline even though he has an expiring contract, writes Joe Cowley of The Chicago Sun-Times. Whether or not that means Vucevic’s long-term future is in Chicago will be determined in free agency this summer.

Vucevic, who has stated several times that he hopes to remain with the Bulls, acknowledges that the organization paid a hefty price to acquire him from the Magic in 2021. He has gotten past the feeling that he needs to prove himself, allowing him to take a calmer approach this season and find a comfortable fit with his current team.

“Last year, I was just trying to make everything happen so quickly,’’ Vucevic said. “I wanted to be able to be the best version of myself right away, and when that didn’t happen, I started forcing things, overthinking things. I wasn’t letting my natural instincts come into play, and it took me some time to figure it out. It took me time to find my place with my new teammates, new system.

“Not everyone realizes that as a big man, it takes more time. You don’t have the ball in your hand. I feel like late last season and into the playoffs, I found my place and how I can be my best. I came into this year feeling much more comfortable with my teammates. Plus, the new offense helped me, as well. I’m not overthinking, not second-guessing myself. I feel like I’m a better version of myself than I was.’’

There’s more from the Central Division:

  • Pistons general manager Troy Weaver is expecting a huge comeback from Cade Cunningham, per James L. Edwards of The Athletic. After a promising rookie year, Cunningham was only able to play 12 games this season before opting for shin surgery. “I think (next) year he’ll probably really turn his career,” Weaver said. “He’s learned process. He is such a great competitor and mental giant, but the young players that learn process, that’s how you step into your greatness. He understands process now after having to go through this injury.”
  • The Pistons‘ 17-55 record was disappointing, but the team added two long-term foundation pieces in Jaden Ivey and Jalen Duren, Edwards adds in a separate story. Given a chance to play regular minutes, both lottery picks showed they could contribute right away. “Jaden and Jalen … I’ve seen a huge improvement in them as far as their comfort level and poise,” Cunningham said. “They continued to get better throughout the year. I’m definitely excited about them.”
  • After an NBA odyssey that dates back to his childhood, J.B. Bickerstaff arrived in Cleveland, where he has turned out to be the perfect coach for a young Cavaliers team, states Chris Fedor of Cleveland.com.
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