Nikola Vucevic saw it all with the Orlando Magic. He wanted to remain with the team and build on the foundation he and Terrence Ross began.
He arrived at the team as it began its rebuild project. The last remaining piece of that rebuilding trade involving Dwight Howard.
Orlando did not quite know what it was getting but fans were pleasantly surprised when Nikola Vucevic started turning in double-doubles on a regular basis. He continued to do his work, even as the team floundered and struggled to find its way.
It was easy to get tired of Vucevic’s consistency because he was not doing more. Yet he returned year after year.
It was a long journey, but the team finally found its way.
Through years of criticism and difficulties, Vucevic was the one who led them there. He turned in an All-Star year and got the team to the playoffs. The Magic pulled everything together and made the playoffs.
It was a long journey. Vucevic was not about to turn back now. Not even with free agency facing him.
“For me, I have been here for so long,” Vucevic said during a press conference Monday to introduce the Magic’s signings. “Last season was the best year I had individually and as a team as well. For me, it was important to continue this. There is something very positive happening with the franchise especially since new management came in. It’s been happening. There’s a change of culture, I think. We can feel it. For Terrence and me, we want to keep it going.”
After seven years with the team, Vucevic could sense a change. There were the results to prove it, of course. But something else was different now too.
Nikola Vucevic said coach Steve Clifford was a coach he instantly clicked with and helped change the outlook for the team. All the pieces were coming together for this franchise.
That was what these players believed in most. This was just the beginning.