Bulls Insider

Nikola Vučević sticking to routine to battle shooting slump

/ by K.C. Johnson
Presented By Nationwide Insurance Agent Jeff Vukovich
Bulls Insider

BOSTON — Nikola Vučević is like you. He keeps expecting the next shot to go in.

They did when it counted the most in Saturday's pulsating victory over the Utah Jazz. In that game's final minute-and-a-half, the Chicago Bulls' All-Star center scored five massive points in a 30-second stretch to finish with 16 points and 12 rebounds.

That marked Vučević third double-double of the young season. And his averages of 15.8 points and 11 rebounds stack up nicely along his career averages of 16.9 points and 10.4 rebounds.

But Vučević also is shooting a very "un-Vooch" like 38.9 percent from the field and 32 percent from 3-point range. Those lag well behind his career marks of 49.5 percent from the field and 35.7 percent from 3-point range — not to mention the career-high 40 percent he shot from 3 in 2020-21 (38.8 percent after arriving in Chicago).

"Just work my way out of it," Vučević said while sitting courtside at TD Garden following the Bulls' Monday morning shootaround. "I'm working in practice, after practice. And then in games, just keep shooting. Part of it is finding my rhythm within a new team. I've played very differently the past couple years in Orlando. I had the ball in my hands. It's different now. We have more options. And that's good."

Following a busy offseason in which management added four-time All-Star DeMar DeRozan, among other solid moves, everyone knew shared sacrifice would be a consistent theme for these Bulls. Through six games, DeRozan is leading the Bulls with 19 field-goal attempts per game. Zach LaVine is next at 17.7. Vučević has averaged 15.8 shots, four fewer than the 19.9 he averaged last season.

 

The Bulls are still utilizing Vučević plenty in two-man game. And he has had several open looks from 3-point range following pick-and-pop actions.

That his final 3-point try — and a crucial one — found bottom on Saturday is something on which to build.

"I don't do too much different," Vučević said when asked how he approaches rough patches. "I have my certain routine I do as far as my shooting and workouts. I stick to that. Film, I watch regardless if it's good or bad. I don't want to change anything dramatic because of it. I just need a game or two where I get going and it will change everything.

"I'm going through a little bit of a rough stretch, but it's early. It's going to happen. It's nothing I'm overly worried about. But obviously, I'd like to get out of it sooner rather than later. It helps the team when I'm efficient. It opens up a lot for us."

At the end of the day, Vučević takes solace, and pride, in his career averages. They're there for a reason.

"I take a lot of pride in being consistent and efficient. It's always something I have been in my career," he said. "I don't like not shooting well. I look forward to getting back to shooting the way I know I can."

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