Bulls Insider

Vučević poised to play all 82 games for first time


In this era of load management, Nikola Vučević says to bring on the load.

Vučević and Chicago Bulls coach Billy Donovan confirmed on Saturday that Vučević played on Friday night in Dallas as other starters rested because Vučević is poised to play all 82 games for the first time in his 12-year career on Sunday.

“I’ll be very careful when I step out of the shower (Saturday) night,” Vučević joked.

Vučević has played 73 games or more in six seasons, including last season in his first full season with the Bulls. His previous career-high of 80 games came for the 2018-19 Orlando Magic, also in a contract year.

“I really wanted to get there and play all 82,” Vučević said. “It’s very hard to do. Not a lot of people are able to, so it’s something I want to do for myself. It speaks about my continuity, staying healthy.

“I’m not a big fan of sitting out. Usually, I like to play if I can. And I thought it would be fun to play (Friday) with some of those guys who get less minutes. It was fun to play against Luka (Dončić); he didn’t play the first (Bulls-Mavericks) game. But 82 will be an achievement for myself, something personal that I’d be proud of.”

Donovan praised Vučević’s commitment.

“There’s a lot of talk of load management and guys missing games. I think you also have to look at the fact the game is so much faster today and points are going up. And there are more possessions. So it’s more taxing on you,” Donovan said. “For him as a center, as a big guy, to take care of his body the way he has, I give him a lot of credit of how he has kept himself available.

“And listen, you have to have some good fortune. You could come down on someone’s foot and sprain an ankle. You can catch an errant pass and dislocate your finger. A lot of things can happen. But he has done all the things to physically take care of his body to put himself in position to do that. And I think the availability for a center like him is really remarkable.”

Donovan said Vučević is “a diligent, disciplined worker” who often is one of the first players in the weight room for off-day maintenance on his body. But the commitment extends to off-the-court matters as well.

“I think he eats well. He gets good rest. I think he has a lot of good, positive family support around him, which is great,” Donovan said. “But he’s very, very detailed, even on the road. If we don’t have a shootaround or it’s a back-to-back, you may see him in the weight room doing his maintenance stuff.”

As for the family support, Vučević credited his wife for helping him achieve his personal goal.

“She lets me sleep in a lot of mornings after we come in late,” Vučević said. “She takes the kids out of the house so they’re not yelling and waking me up. It’s funny, but it’s true. She has a big part in it. She’s very understanding of it.”

Vučević said the longer he has been in the league, the more he has learned and developed a routine that works for him. He also realized that luck comes into play as well.

But it’s clear this achievement is important to him on both a personal and professional level.

“My work ethic probably came from watching my Dad, a professional basketball player, growing up,” Vučević said. “At that age, I didn’t realize as much what he was doing. But looking back on it now, I see the way he was taking care of his body, the way he was eating. He taught me a lot about it.

“When I first got to the NBA in Philly, guys like (Andre) Iguodala, Elton Brand, other veterans I had. My first two years in Orlando, I had veterans like Jameer Nelson, JJ Redick. JJ especially was so professional about taking care of his body. My whole career, I had guys doing different things and you just watch and learn and you ask questions.

“I’m a big believer that everything I do in between games---my lifting sessions, my individual workouts, my body prep, my recovery, the way I eat and sleep affects it a lot.”

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