'They believed in me': Vucevic excited for future with Magic
ORLANDO, Fla. -- While every "i" has yet to be dotted and every "t" has yet to be crossed, Nikola Vucevic is ready to approach the start of the 2014-15 NBA season secure in knowing he'll be with the Orlando Magic for years to come.
Vucevic told reporters Wednesday morning that his agent and Magic general manager Rob Hennigan are finalizing the remaining details of a four-year, $54 million contract extension. The Magic have until Oct. 31 to reach an extension and keep their starting center of the past two seasons from becoming a restricted free agent next summer.
"I always wanted to stay here and be a part of the Magic future," Vucevic said. "So obviously I'm very excited."
Vucevic made his comments prior to the Magic's preseason game at the Amway Center against Dwight Howard and the Houston Rockets. When the Magic sent Howard to the Los Angeles Lakers in 2012 in a trade involving four teams, part of what they got in return was Vucevic, who played in 51 games for the Philadelphia 76ers as a rookie. He had been the 16th overall draft pick.
In two years, he has made 134 starts for the Magic while averaging 13.6 points and 11.5 rebounds per game.
"It means a lot to me that they brought me here first and gave me a chance to play," said Vucevic, who turns 24 on Friday. "They gave me a chance to prove myself, and they believed in me. There have been tough times, but this means a lot for my confidence."
Vucevic was given the night off Saturday in the Magic's 95-84 loss to the 76ers in Allentown, Pa. In his first five preseason games, he has averaged 15.2 points and 7.4 rebounds in 26.3 minutes.
"He's a very intelligent basketball player, and he's able to use that on both ends of the floor," Magic coach Jacque Vaughn said. "I've enjoyed tremendously coaching him and being around him. I give him a lot of credit for allowing me to coach him, to push him and hold him accountable on both ends of the floor."
Vucevic is one of only five players in the league to average at least 10 rebounds a game in each of the past two seasons, with Howard being one of the others.
"He's not going to beat you with his athleticism or quickness," Howard said. "But he's very crafty around the basket. I remember the first time we played against him when he was in Philly, and he was pretty raw back then. But he's really transformed into a nice player. With the pieces they've got, I think he's going to continue to get better."