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Well-traveled Vucevic ready for London showdown

David Manning/USA TODAY Sports

LONDON -- After an overnight trip to London that left the Orlando Magic so fatigued that Tuesday's practice was cancelled, the nominal hosts of the NBA’s now-annual European detour were thrust into the public eye Wednesday. The Magic fulfilled their contribution to promoting the league’s brand and its sponsors on the other side of the pond.

Each of the seven regular-season games held at London’s O2 Arena have failed to find a unanimously warm welcome from coaches or players who fear it surpasses even the disruption from an East to West coast swing.

However, with the Toronto Raptors awaiting Thursday in front of a sellout 17,000-crowd, Magic center Nikola Vucevic will assuredly block out the noise and ease into one more basketball trip.

Born in Switzerland, raised predominantly in Belgium, but a native of Montenegro, changing cities like clothes was nothing out of the ordinary for Vucevic. His family followed the employment of his father Borislav, a Yugoslavia international who won a European club title with Bosnian side Bosna during his prime.

“It wasn’t too hard,” says Vucevic, who is averaging 17.1 points and 8.3 rebounds per game. “We always used to go back to Montenegro in the summer after my dad was done playing and I was done at school. So I had friends in Belgium and Montenegro.

“And now I look back at it, it was great to live in different countries and have different cultures and learn different languages. I learned to speak French, I speak Serbian, and I speak English. That helps. I know a lot of people in a lot of countries.”

Countries including the United States, where he came for his senior year of high school before playing collegiately for three seasons at the University of Southern California. The more you experience, the simpler it becomes when curve balls are thrown.

“When I got traded from Philadelphia to Orlando, it wasn’t too hard an adjustment for me because I’ve been through situations like that as a kid,” Vucevic said. “I know what it’s like to go to a place and not know anybody, not know the city. You just have to adjust to it.”

Close to many of his homes away from home this week, Vucevic -- like several European imports -- has been allocated extra tickets for the Raptors-Magic duel to satisfy the demands of friends and family. Borislav, however, has remained in Montenegro, holding off his personal visit until later in the season.

Borislav played professionally until the age of 44, and that well of knowledge is why the pair remain in constant contact, a word of advice here, a sentence of encouragement there.

“He’s kind of my personal coach,” Vucevic said. “Growing up, he taught me everything about the game, not just skill-wise but being mentally ready for everything I need to do, to be able to play. To go through the ups and downs. How to be ready for that. How to live as an athlete. That really helped me.

“I was lucky to have that growing up. I used to watch him practice every day, and watch him play. You learn so much from that. And once you get into that position, it makes it so much easier. Even today, he’s able to talk to me, tell me what he sees and how I can get even better. I’ve been very lucky to have him.”