The final basket center Nik Vucevic made Friday night is listed as a "driving layup" in the
The layup helped secure a win, and it also epitomized why
Vucevic collected a bounce pass from
"All I really had to do is just extend and finish it," Vucevic said.
Vucevic is being modest. What might seem simple to him — catching the ball and going up with his off hand in one fluid motion as a defender bore down — is anything but simple for most 7-footers.
How Vucevic, 22, develops is one of the Magic's intriguing subplots this season.
He has the ball skills, smarts and size to become a player who averages double figures in scoring and rebounding.
Still, this season is a whirlwind for him — perhaps as much of a whirlwind as his rookie year last season with the
Ensconced now as the Magic's starting center, each game brings another challenge.
On Wednesday, it was the
Vucevic's teammates understand what he faces game to game.
"You've got to feed him nails and hot sauce,"
"That's what you've got to do with guys like that with big upside and never really had to bite nobody. You've got to get him to bite somebody and also learn mentally, because he's going to be in the game in big, key stretches."
Vucevic isn't a shot-blocker — and because of that, he's not a dominant defensive force — but his coaches marvel at his penchant for being in the right place defensively.
The coaches grade each player for his performance on each defensive possession, and
"Nik is tops pretty much each game," Vaughn said.
Vucevic has plenty of room to develop physically. The
"Joe's already done a great job of just working with any deficiencies that he has," Vaughn said. "He'll have a concentrated effort in the offseason, which excites me."
The 70 games ahead will give Vucevic plenty of chances to grow against a procession of NBA big men. In the next four games, he'll face Garnett,
"It motivates me," Vucevic said. "They're all great players. It's going to be a different matchup every night. It's going to be a tough matchup every night for me. But I can only get better from it. I'm looking forward to those matchups. I'm going to give it all I have."