After the NBA schedule comes out this evening, the next major event in the NBA calendar is FIBA Europe's regional championship, EuroBasket. Several NBA players, including Magic center Nikola Vucevic, forward Hedo Turkoglu and Magic free agent guard Beno Udrih, will be donning their home country's colors for this major basketball event.
Unlike the other second-year players on the Magic's roster, Nikola Vucevic did not participate in Summer League. While he has been spending a lot of his offseason training in Orlando (he was in the media room when Victor Oladipo was introduced after teh Draft), the major basketball work for Vucevic would come in representing Montenegro at EuroBasket.
Now, it appears Vucevic will have even more pressure on him to perform this September in Slovenia.
RealGM reports Timberwolves center Nikola Pekovic will not participate in EuroBasket for Montenegro as Pekovic is still in contract negotiations with the Timberwolves. Pekovic clearly does not want to risk injury and losing out on that big payday.
That, of course, means Pekovic's good friend Nikola Vucevic will take on a bigger role for the Montenegran team next month in Slovenia. With Pekovic and Vucevic manning the paint, Montenegro swept through its qualifying group.
Getting consistent playing time for the Magic last season, Vucevic broke out in averaging 13.1 points and 11.9 rebounds per game. Vucevic had good instincts around the basket offensively and on the glass. It was a pleasant surprise for a team that had just traded away the best center in the league in Dwight Howard. Orlando seemed to have found an adequate replacement long term and would not need to go on a decade-long search for a center like the organization did after losing Shaquille O'Neal.
Vucevic is now the only NBA player on Montenegro's roster. It might be safe to assume that Vucevic will get the ball plenty of times and will get plenty of shots through Montenegro's time in the tournament. Montenegro will open up play against Macedonia on September 4 and are in a Group B with Lithuania and Serbia. It is very possible that Montenegro will finish in the top three and advance to the second round of competition.
Vucevic averaged 5.0 points and 3.2 rebounds per game at EuroBasket in 2011 and posted 15.5 points and 10.8 rebounds per game at the 2009 U20 European Championship.
This could be another breakout summer for Vucevic before he begins his second year with the Magic.