Home Youth jerseys Orlando Magic is looking again for his Nikola Vucevic

Orlando Magic is looking again for his Nikola Vucevic

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Chicago bulls

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Orlando Magic

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Swapping a star or the cornerstone of a franchise is never an easy decision, no matter how necessary or fair it is.

Nikola Vucevic revealed earlier this week to the Chicago Sun-Times that his exchange in March was not completely surprising. The team that Vucevic had called home for nearly a decade and where he had established himself as an All-Star and one of the franchise’s all-time best players was going to do well by him. And the two sides discussed the future of the franchise and where Vucevic might fit best.

When it was time to go our separate ways, it was time to go our separate ways. And the Magic took care of themselves and themselves in the process – the team isn’t too mad at Wendell Carter and Franz Wagner at this point.

There’s always that gaping hole when a team loses their franchise player. This is something that can be difficult to recover from.

Swapping a star can be difficult, especially one as beloved as Nikola Vucevic. But the Orlando Magic are indeed starting from scratch and lacking the stability that a player like Vucevic can provide.

Orlando is starting from scratch. This was more than evident in the 123-88 demolition by the Chicago Bulls of a young and understaffed Orlando Magic team at the Amway Center on Friday. It’s equally obvious how many times the Magic have suffered shattering defeats and how the team seemed to play a valuable number of close games in the first quarter of the season.

Even with all of the up-and-coming young Magic players, they’re still looking for a tent star to build on and still looking for the talent to move forward. Not to mention the depth to get through the rest of this season.

Vucevic returned to Orlando as a player for the first time since that trade. The team he faced was very different from the one he had left. His trainer who helped him elevate him to All-Star status and back-to-back playoff appearances was gone. The same goes for his longtime teammates on this squad, traded that same fateful day.

It’s hard to say he had a lot of connections with anything. Even the jerseys were different as the Magic wore their new City Edition jerseys for the occasion.

The only connection was with the organization and the fans. And both made sure Vucevic knew they were enjoying him all night long. This appreciation has been returned.

Vucevic scored 16 points and picked up eight rebounds, making 7 of the Bulls’ 13 shots on his return. It was a fairly calm comeback – minus a dunk on Mo Bamba which Bamba definitely blocked but Vucevic still managed a basket and foul.

In a bit of fun, Vucevic sat down on the floor after the foul was called and appeared to be watching the Magic bench. The All-Star is still letting the young team know how good he was.

Vucevic was playing his second game after missing nearly two weeks after testing positive for COVID. Vucevic still has his legs under him. Not to mention still finding his offensive fit in a much busier roster with Zach LaVine playing again as an All-Star and DeMar DeRozan adding another dimension to the squad.

The Bulls ran away for their win thanks to a 16-0 run to open the second quarter and turnovers that just charged their offense all night. On the contrary, the way the Bulls forced turnovers and came out in transition is exactly what the Magic ultimately want to play.

The contrast between the aggressiveness and precision of the two teams in executing their pressure defense is the difference between the Bulls and the Magic right now.

Orlando is always looking for a way to create his identity and build who he wants to be. Not to mention learning to weather storms and races without going too deep into the hole. Magic has shown their youth in every way.

The Magics, in many ways, seek the kind of stability they had with Vucevic. They seek the calming influence to focus when there is chaos all around and to stop races and calm the team on both sides.

It’s the influence that a true veteran and star can have on a team. When the team needs a bucket, they have someone to turn to.

Orlando used Vucevic in this role to qualify for the playoffs in 2019 and 2020.

Vucevic is not the kind of player who could take the team to 0.500 on his own or out of the first round. But he has always been a stabilizing force. Even when the Magic tried to introduce other players, Vucevic was always a cohesive force capable of offering the team an easy bucket if the team could set it up correctly.

The Magic just doesn’t have that player.

In Friday’s game, Orlando did a good job preparing Wendell Carter (26 points) for most of the night. He had great chemistry with Franz Wagner, who was forced to deal with the ball due to the team’s litany of injuries. Wagner (15 points, four assists) was really the only other player to shine throughout the game.

Jalen Suggs, the team’s draft pick last year, is still a rookie. His game on Friday showed some very bright points. He scored 14 points on 5v10 shots in one of his most effective shooting outings of the season.

But like any young playmaker, he returned it four times. He sometimes struggled to break Lonzo Ball or Alex Caruso or the teeming defense that encountered him at the second level.

Of course, the team’s best player this year at Cole Anthony was sitting on the bench and missing his fourth game in a row with a sprained ankle. And while Markelle Fultz and Jonathan Isaac progress, the two are still recovering from torn ACLs.

Orlando is not yet playing with a full squad. And, in any case, the Magic are still figuring out what they have and how they want to build. In the meantime, they take their pieces.

A player like Vucevic would definitely help a team like this. It is a strong sieve, a reliable safety valve, and a calming influence at both ends. Then again, he anchored the injury-filled squad from last year and the Magic have consistently fallen to the bottom of the standings.

This probably influenced the final decision to move on and start over. They owed this to Vucevic to give him a chance to win as much as needed to cool off and start the slate as intimidating as it could be.

For many fans, Magic’s rebuilding never ended by swapping out Dwight Howard. Vucevic, always playing in that shadow, was never going to be that kind of player.

But there still remains that undeniable hole in the franchise and the roster with his departure. Perhaps it was a necessary gesture. Maybe it was the right decision. But Orlando is going to chase that ghost until they find that replacement, just like they chased the ghosts of other big centers that are gone.

Vucevic will be forever grateful to Orlando and the Magic. Much like Magic fans should always appreciate and be grateful to Vucevic.

But both have evolved. Vucevic has found a new home. Orlando is always looking for his next star and some stability to start building again.