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Nikola Vucevic agrees to a three-year, USD60 million extension with the Bulls

CHICAGO (AP) – The Chicago Bulls and centre Nikola Vucevic agreed Wednesday to a USD60 million, three-year extension, keeping the two-time All-Star off the free agent market.

The move was hardly a surprise considering executive vice president of basketball operations Arturas Karnisovas and Vucevic had expressed a desire to get a deal done. The consistently productive 6-foot-10 centre averaged 17.6 points and 11 rebounds, both identical to his averages a season earlier, while playing in all 82 games for the first time in his career.

“I’m excited to continue my journey as a Chicago Bull,” Vucevic said in a statement. “Since I have arrived in Chicago, everyone in the organization has been incredibly welcoming to my family and me. I am motivated more than ever to achieve our mutual goals as a team.”

Vucevic, who turns 33 in October, has averaged 17 points and 10.5 rebounds over 12 seasons with Philadelphia, Orlando and Chicago. The Bulls signalled they were serious about becoming contenders and attracting top free agents when they acquired him from the Magic in March 2021 for Wendell Carter Jr and two first-round picks — their first major move under Karnisovas.

Chicago added DeMar DeRozan, Lonzo Ball and Alex Caruso prior to the 2021-22 season and reached the playoffs at 46-36 after four straight losing seasons. But last season they regressed to 40-42 and lost in the play-in tournament.

Ball hasn’t played since January 14, 2022 because of a left knee injury that is expected to sideline him all of next season. The Bulls will need to address the point guard position. But they settled one issue by locking in Vucevic.

“He has produced at an elite level since we acquired him and will remain an integral part of our foundation moving forward,” Karnisovas said in a statement. “Nikola’s willingness to do whatever is asked of him to help us win, while also being an established veteran leader for our group, makes him a valuable component of the culture of our organisation.”

Chicago Bulls centre Nikola Vucevic (centre) looks toward the basket as Toronto Raptors forward Chris Boucher (right) and guard Fred VanVleet (left) defend during the first half of an NBA basketball play-in tournament game on April 12 in Toronto. PHOTO: AP