Nikola Vucevic

 

Nikola Vucevic (born 24 October 1990) is a Montenegrin professional basketball player for the Orlando Magic of the National Basketball Association (NBA). He played college basketball for the University of Southern California before being drafted 16th overall in the 2011 NBA draft by the Philadelphia 76ers. Vucevic was born in Morges, Switzerland and then raised primarily in Belgium where his father, Borislav, played professional basketball. Borislav played professionally for 24 years and was a member of the Yugoslavia national team, as well as of the KK Bosna team which won the European Champions Cup in 1979. Vucevic’s mother, Ljiljana, was a 6-foot-2 forward for the Sarajevo club Željeznicar, as well as for the Yugoslavia national team. His family moved to Montenegro when he was a teenager. He was named Montenegro’s Best Young Player in 2007. He speaks Serbian, English and French. Vucevic came to Simi Valley, California from his native Montenegro in October 2007 to play his senior year of high school at Stoneridge Prep. He came to the U.S. knowing little English, but did speak French, which many of his teammates also spoke. Under coach Babacar Sy, a friend of his father’s, he was team captain and led the team in scoring and rebounding with 18 points and 12 rebounds. Vucevic played three seasons with the Trojans of the University of Southern California. Vucevic missed the first eight games of the season while waiting to have his amateur status confirmed by the NCAA Clearinghouse. He averaged 2.6 points and 2.7 rebounds in 23 games in three starts. Vucevic played in his first game with USC on 15 December 2008, against Pepperdine and had two points, two blocks, and two rebounds in six minutes. He made his first start of the season on 24 January 2009, at Washington State and was instrumental in the Trojans’ 46–44 win with a season-high eight points and five rebounds. He also scored eight points on 9 February 2009, at UCLA and in his second start of the season on 19 February against Washington State. Vucevic had a season-best seven rebounds in that game and matched that total on 5 March 2009, vs. Oregon. Nikola scored six points and had four rebounds in the NCAA second-round loss to Michigan State on 22 March. In all, he made 57.8 percent of his shots from the field (26-for-45). Vucevic began to excel in his sophomore season. He scored 18 points and had eight rebounds in the first game of the season against UC Riverside on 17 November 2009, both totals better than any of his freshman games. Vucevic had 18 points and 14 rebounds at Texas on 3 December 2009. He scored a career-high 19 points and had 11 rebounds vs. Loyola Marymount on 21 November 2009, for his first career double-double. Matched his career high with 19 points on 9-of-12 shooting at UCLA on 16 January 2010, scoring 17 points in the second half. By the end of the year, he led USC in scoring five times and in rebounding 20 times, including the last nine games.
Overall, he was the second top scorer and leading rebounder on the Trojans, with 10.7 points and 9.4 rebounds per game. Vucevic led the Pac-10 with 283 rebounds and offensive rebounds per game (6.3) and his 39 blocks were the fourth most in the conference. Vucevic’s .504 shooting percentage (126-for-250) led USC and was seventh best in the Pac-10. Vucevic was named the 2009–10 Pac-10 Most Improved Player, and earned all-pac-10 second team and pac-10 honorable-mention all-defensive team honors. He had the second most blocks ever in a season by a Trojan sophomore and the third most rebounds. Vucevic started all 30 games for USC and posted 10 double-doubles. As a junior, Vucevic was picked to the Fourth Team All-America by Fox Sports and was named to the All-Pac-10 first team. In March 2011, Vucevic announced that he would give up his senior year to be submitted to the NBA draft. The website NBAdraft.net projected him as the 23rd pick in the draft. During his stint with the Trojans, Vucevic averaged 11.1 points and 8.0 rebounds per game. On 23 June 2011, Vucevic was drafted with the 16th overall pick in the 2011 NBA draft by the Philadelphia 76ers. During the 2011 NBA lockout, Vucevic played for Montenegrin team Buducnost Podgorica. Following the conclusion of the lockout, he returned to the United States and signed his rookie scale contract with the 76ers on 9 December 2011. On 22 February 2012, Vucevic scored a season-high 18 points in a loss to the Houston Rockets. On 10 August 2012, Vucevic was traded to the Orlando Magic in a four-team trade involving Dwight Howard, Andrew Bynum, Arron Afflalo, Andre Iguodala, and other players. On 31 December 2012, in an overtime loss to the Miami Heat, Vucevic set a franchise record with 29 rebounds. On 10 April 2013, he recorded his second straight 20/20 game with a career-high 30 points and 20 rebounds in a 113–103 win over the Milwaukee Bucks. On 6 November 2013, Vucevic recorded a career-high tying 30 points and 21 rebounds in a 98–90 win over the Los Angeles Clippers. Vucevic’s strong play over the second half of the 2013–14 season was noticeable on 28 March 2014 when he dominated the Charlotte Bobcats. He overcame a slow start shooting the ball to finish the game with 24 points and 23 rebounds in an overtime victory. Vucevic made nine of his last 11 shots to lead a Magic rally in the second half, while also grabbing 16 first-half rebounds and 10 offensive boards in the game, marking the sixth 20-point, 20-rebound game of his career. On 23 October 2014, Vucevic signed a four-year, $53 million contract extension with the Magic. On 3 April 2015, he scored a career-high 37 points in a 97–84 win over the Minnesota Timberwolves. On 11 November 2015, Vucevic didn’t start for the Magic against the Los Angeles Lakers, returning to action after a three-game absence with a right knee contusion. Vucevic, who had started all 223 games for the Magic over his four-season tenure, came off the bench for the first time and scored 18 points, including a fallaway 18-footer at the buzzer to lift the Magic over the Lakers 101–99. Vucevic averaged 18.4 points, 9.0 rebounds and 3.0 assists in his first 12 games of December (1–23 December). Shaquille O’Neal is the only other Magic player to reach those numbers in one month in franchise history. On 7 February 2016, he scored 22 points and hit an 18-footer at the buzzer to lead the Magic over the Atlanta Hawks 96–94, winning for only the third time in 18 games in 2016. On 23 February, he scored a season-high 35 points in a 124–115 win over the Philadelphia 76ers. On 31 March, he returned to action after missing the previous 13 games with a right groin strain. He subsequently came off the bench for just the second in his Magic tenure, as he scored 24 points in a 114–94 win over the Indiana Pacers. He came off the bench for a further three games before returning to the starting line-up on 8 April against the Miami Heat, where he scored a game-high 29 points in a 112–109 win. Vucevic started in all 16 games for the Magic to start the 2016–17 season, coming off the bench for just the sixth time in his Magic tenure on 27 November 2016 against the Milwaukee Bucks. Vucevic continued to come off the bench throughout December, while also missing three games between 10 December and 14 December with a back injury. On 20 December, he had a season-high 26 points and 12 rebounds off the bench in a 136–130 double overtime win over the Miami Heat. He regained his starting spot in mid-January, and as a result, he hit 13 of 18 shots, scored a season-high 30 points and grabbed 10 rebounds to lead the Magic to a 115–109 victory over the Portland Trail Blazers on 13 January. On 7 February 2017, he had 14 points and a season-high 19 rebounds in a 128–104 loss to the Houston Rockets. On 11 March 2017, in a 116–104 loss to Cleveland, Vucevic had a team-high 20 points and 16 rebounds after missing the previous four games with a sore right Achilles. On 10 April 2017, he grabbed 10 rebounds against Chicago to move ahead of Shaquille O’Neal into second place in franchise history, trailing only Dwight Howard. On 20 October 2017, Vucevic scored a career-high 41 points and grabbed 12 rebounds in a 126–121 loss to the Brooklyn Nets. On 9 December 2017, he recorded his first career triple-double with game highs of 31 points, 13 rebounds and 10 assists in a 117–110 loss to the Atlanta Hawks. He became the first Magic center to record a triple-double with assists—Shaquille O’Neal and Dwight Howard each accomplished it with blocks. On 23 December 2017, he suffered a fractured left hand against the Washington Wizards and was subsequently ruled out for six to eight weeks. He returned to action on 22 February 2018 against the New York Knicks after missing 23 games, recording 19 points and six rebounds in a 120–113 loss. On 14 March 2018, he recorded 22 points, nine rebounds and nine assists in a 126–117 win over the Milwaukee Bucks.
On 20 October 2018, Vucevic recorded his second career triple-double with 27 points, 13 rebounds and 12 assists in a 116–115 loss to the Philadelphia 76ers. On 17 November, he had a season-high 36 points and 13 rebounds in a 130–117 win over the Los Angeles Lakers. Eight days later, he had 31 points, 15 rebounds and seven assists in a 108–104 win also against the Lakers. Prior to the second match-up against the Lakers, Lakers coach Luke Walton described Vucevic as a “nightmare to matchup with” because of the versatility of his offensive game. Following the 108–104 win, Lakers forward LeBron James noted that “He’s (Vucevic) got our number this year. All you can say.”

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