The big man picked up two quick technical fouls and found himself headed for the showers after just nine minutes in the Magic's 109-93 loss to the Phoenix Suns. He picked up his first tech for arguing a foul call and the second one for flipping the ball in the direction of Phoenix forward Channing Frye.
After the game, Vucevic talked to his father, Borislav Vucevic, who played professionally for 24 years in Europe. Nikola expected a tongue-lashing from his dad, who is often critical of his game, but the old man chose a different tact, per NBA.com's John Denton:
Actually, it wasn’t as bad as I thought it would be. He just told me that I have to be smarter. He said it’s not that you hurt yourself, you hurt your team. He told me that if I want to be one of the best players on the team and one of the leaders, I have to be there for the team and not do stuff like that. He just said overall it’s a bad look. But it wasn’t like he yelled or anything. I thought he would, but he didn’t.
As any good parent knows, it is sometimes better to use guilt, rather than anger, to get your child to own up to his or her mistakes. And it seems like Borislav's parenting technique paid off, as Nikola apologized to the team after the call.
"I apologized to them that it wasn’t smart on my part, which it wasn’t. learned from it. I kind of got carried away. I even surprised myself because I really don’t do that. I just need to focus on what happens with the team and what I can control."
Head coach Jacque Vaughn isn't likely to hold anything against his starting center. After all, Vucevic ranks third on the team in points per game (14) and first in rebounds per game (10.8). According to Basketball-Reference, the 23-year-old Vucevic is one of only four players under the age of 25 to average at least 10 points and 10 rebounds per game, joining DeMarcus Cousins (23), Anthony Davis (21) and Andre Drummond (20).
But this isn't the first time Vucevic has paid for his lack of experience. He had to sit in the locker room for four games after forgetting to pack a suit jacket before heading off on a road trip, per Denton:
Vucevic never envisioned getting injured on the road trip, especially in the manner that he did after stepping on the foot of a courtside cameraman in Washington, D.C. last Monday night. And because he couldn’t sit on the bench without a suit jacket for fear of being fined by the NBA, Vucevic was isolated in the locker room while watching Magic games. That, he said, made sitting out the past four games doubly tough.
Live and learn, young Vucevic. Something tells me the big man won't be getting suspended or forgetting to pack a sports coat any time soon.
*All statistics courtesy of Basketball-Reference.com.