Vucevic can pride himself on being the first player to represent Montenegro in an NBA All-Star game. Naturally, it’s something of great importance for him. “It’s an honor. I’m the first player ever from there to be in an All-Star game,”Vucevic said. “We’re such a small country, we have 650.000 people. So for me to have the opportunity to represent my country and make my people proud is a huge honor. Especially the kids. I know there are a lot of kids that look up to me. I’ve seen a lot of text messages from people there. In my hometown, they put a billboard with my picture.”
As public address announcer Paul Porter introduced that night’s “hometown hero,” a longtime Daytona Beach Fire Department employee, Vucevic kept peeking toward the row behind the scorer’s table. There, Magic chief communications officer Joel Glass and director of communications George Galante watched the announcement of the 2018-19 Eastern Conference All-Star reserves on a TV monitor. Careful not to disrespect the hometown hero, Vucevic kept averting his eyes from Glass and Galante. Then, all of a sudden, he heard Glass shout an emphatic “Yes!” Vucevic looked over again and saw Glass and Galante smiling. Galante held his fist held high in the air. Vucevic had to be sure. “Yes?” he mouthed. “You’re in!” Galante yelled.
In that overwhelming moment, on the verge of tears of joy, Vucevic had to share his happiness with two of the most important people in his life. He turned left, glanced into Section 113 across from the Magic bench, and signaled to his mom and dad, Ljiljana and Borislav Vucevic. They beamed. Now, two weeks later, with the 2019 NBA All-Star Game set for Sunday in Charlotte, N.C., Nikola still delights in his good fortune — that he earned an All-Star nod, that his parents experienced his selection with him, that the Magic are in a playoff chase and, most important of all, that he and his wife, Nikoleta, have a 2-month-old son.
But Skiles quit after one year, and the Magic signed center Bismack Biyombo to a four-year contract worth $17 million per season. Early in the season, with Frank Vogel as the coach, Vucevic was moved to the bench so Biyombo could start. Vucevic was so upset that it was the first, and only, time he ever seriously considered asking for a trade. His parents, his wife and his agent, Rade Filipovich, urged him to be patient.