Catching up with Nikola Vucevic

You were at the Champions League semifinals rooting for Juventus in Madrid. Will you be watching the final?

Nikola Vucevic: No, unfortunately I wasn't able to get tickets but I'll be watching the game on TV.

Are you hopeful Juventus can pull the upset against Barcelona?

NV: Yeah, it will be hard to do because they are the best team in Europe right now, but Juventus has a chance. I mean they made all the way to the final and they beat a very good Real Madrid team, so they will have a chance. Barcelona is very good and they have Lionel Messi. But I'm sure Juventus can find a way to get it done.

Who do you think is the Messi of the NBA?

NV: Well, if you mean a player that plays like him, I would say Stephen Curry because of the way he handles the ball and the speed he has. As far as who's the best player in the NBA, it's LeBron James. LeBron James would be the Messi of the NBA.

How much time do you spend in the offseason in Montenegro?

NV: Most of my time. I try to be at home, spend time with my family, my friends… I do some traveling, I go to some different places in Europe, but I like to be in Montenegro, especially during the summer time with all of my friends. A lot of them play basketball in different countries in Europe and we all come back in the summer.

Does Montenegro really feel like home to you  having lived in so many places like Switzerland, Belgium or the States?

NV: Yeah. When we lived away we always used to come back during the summer or Christmas break. I still consider Montenegro my home. This is where home is with my family and friends.

When you tell people in the States that you're from this small country in Europe called Montenegro, what do they tell you? Do people know about it?

NV: I think more and more, I mean especially people that are around. Before, they didn't know much about it. The split from Serbia happened not that long ago, you know. But there are more and more NBA players from Montenegro and people have heard about it with guys like Nikola Mirotic and Nikola Pekovic and before them Aleksandar Pavlovic… When people don't know and ask about it, I show them pictures and most say it's very nice.

What are your thoughts on the hiring of Scott Skiles as head coach?

NV: I don't know him. He's coached very good teams in the past and very good players for what I understand. He played for the Magic and he knows the game, I'm sure. I don't know much about him, but I'm looking forward to meeting him and working with him. I think he'll be good for us and can help us take the next step.

He has a reputation as a very demanding coach, which is kind of the stereotype of the coaches from the former Yugoslavia. So I guess it's going to be pretty familiar to you.

NV: I don't know. I mean, I've read reports about that and, well, I think that's good with a young team. I guess he'll want us to prove ourselves every day, to be at our best every day and become a better team. I've dealt with many coaches here and in college and everywhere and you can learn a lot from every coach.

Did Magic management ask you about your opinion?

NV: No, they never asked me and I didn't expect them to. It's not my job to be involved in this kind of process. My job is to play and do the best I can to help the team on the court.

You're in a good place in Orlando right now being a featured player with a nice contract. Was it a weight off your shoulders when you signed a contract extension last year?

NV: It was great. I just wanted to stay in Orlando, a team that gave me a chance to play and improve myself. They were very patient with me. Everybody has been great to me, from the ownership to my teammates. I just wanted to be here with a team that basically started from zero and has this building process where we can soon have a shot at the playoffs and hopefully one day contend for a championship.

When I signed the extension, it felt great to know that the team you have been playing for has the confidence to make that contract.

Does all this money change your outlook on life somehow?

NV: You have a bigger sense of security and makes you more relaxed in a way. But as far as how I live, lifestyle and all that, there's been no changes. I've always been the same person. If I have $1,000, $5 million or $200 million, I'm not going to change. I'm going to be the same person. I still have the same friends. I don't think money should change people. You grow up wanting to play and getting this money is a bonus to what we do, but it doesn't change who I am.

Does it change people around you?

NV: No. I'm lucky to have a very good family around me, great friends and a great girlfriend. They didn't change. They've been there for me when I was in high school, college and now the NBA.

Of course, when you are in the NBA and making a lot of money, there's going to be people approaching you to get things. But you just have to be smart about it. So far, I've been fortunate to be around great people.

Do you feel like you're a franchise player for the Orlando Magic?

NV: I don't like to talk about myself like that. I just want to be the best player I can be and help my team win.

Clippers head coach Doc Rivers called you the best player nobody in the NBA knows. How do you feel about that description?

NV: It's great to hear that from one of the great coaches in the NBA. At the same time, the things that people say about me… I've never worried about it. I'm not concerned about becoming famous and everybody knowing me. I just have to take my time and get better and better and whatever happens is going to be a byproduct of that. I don't worry about people knowing me.

How's your relationship with the Montenegrin Basketball Federation right now? Are you in good terms?

NV: Yeah, we're in good terms. I've never had an issue with the federation. It was a thing with the coach. I decided not to play with the National Team as long as he was the coach, but everything is good with the federation.

Do you think Nikola Mirotic, Nikola Pekovic and yourself will ever play together for Montenegro?

NV: I hope so, I don't know what the future holds. I can't answer that question for everybody… Nikola Pekovic has played for our team before, so I'm sure he wants to play although he had some issues with injuries. With Mirotic, the thing that happens is he played for Spain in the junior teams… So we will see. But I hope we can put things together and be a very good team.

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