McDermott finds way around NBA campus

VIDEO: Doug McDermott gets 16 points in Bulls’ victory.

LAS VEGAS – Welcome to the NBA, the old saying goes, and it’s not meant as hospitably as it sounds. There’s a smirk inherent, in that life-in-the-big-city, better-it-happened-to-you-than-to-me way.

That’s the way Doug McDermott‘s introduction to the league went last season, a rude welcome to the kid from Omaha in his rookie season with the Chicago Bulls. From college basketball’s player of the year and a Sports Illustrated cover guy to a lost and struggling newbie, all in a few months time. McDermott dealt with rattled confidence, a sore knee and bench splinters for the first time in his basketball life.

“I think maybe when I was 14 years old,” McDermott said Wednesday after the Bulls’ shootaround at the Cox Pavilion, one of the Las Vegas Summer League’s two venues. “I wasn’t a top guy on my AAU team, so I wasn’t playing a lot back then.”

Going through it at 23, after arriving as the No. 11 pick in the NBA Draft, that hit harder.

“But it’s a mental thing where you’ve got to stay positive,” McDermott said. “Your time is coming. Obviously, it was the first time I’d ever been hurt, too. That was hard to get through.”

McDermott got through it – 36 appearances, a mere 8.9 minutes per, and a whole lot of sitting that included 24 games lost to surgery on a meniscus tear in his right knee – but doesn’t intend to go back there. The Bulls can’t afford him to, either, with a familiar roster relying mostly on improvement from within this season.

Already this summer, McDermott has logged long hours at Chicago’s practice facility. He has been the Bulls’ leading scorer in Vegas, averaging 16.5 points through four games, while doing so in uncharacteristic ways: McDermott’s offensive repertoire has featured a variety of floaters, step-backs and layups, coming from isolation and in transition. He walked out Wednesday night with an ice pack taped to his right wrist, the price paid for an open-court dunk in the third quarter against Cleveland’s entry.

But he missed his only 3-point attempt, leaving him – whoa! – just 1-for-11 from the arc here.

“And I saw him make 30 in row in practice,” new Bulls coach Fred Hoiberg said, “so I’m not worried.”

Hoiberg plays a central role in McDermott’s most significant source of inspiration for his second NBA season. If predecessor Tom Thibodeau was tough on the rookie because, well, he was a rookie – and because of McDermott’s surgery layoff, defensive lapses, blown plays, missed shots and passed-up shots – Hoiberg represents a clean slate and a more McBuckets-friendly style of play.

An accomplished 3-point shooter himself (he led the NBA in three-point percentage in his last season, before a heart ailment ended his career), Hoiberg shares the shooter’s mentality, too. He’ll be sensitive to quick hooks that can mess with a guy’s confidence.

“That’s the big things for Doug, to know that he has the confidence to go out there and be a basketball player,” Hoiberg said. “He’s one of the most successful college players in the history of the game, as far as scoring the ball. It’s just a matter of getting that confidence back. If he misses a few, keep shooting. That’s what the great shooters do, that’s what the great players do.”

McDermott’s frame of reference is his time at Creighton. He was a good player when he got there but he blew up as a sophomore, his feet fully wet, his body and mind acclimated to the level of play. His scoring average jumped from 14.9 ppg to 22.9, his accuracy from 52.5 percent to 60.1 percent, his 3-point success from 40.5 to 48.6.

Nobody in the NBA thinks much of college imagery, but in McDermott’s mind at least, he’s physically and mentally ready for his sophomore year.

“Everyone is so much more athletic, everyone is so much stronger than you’re used to,” McDermott said of last year’s transition. “Everyone that’s on the floor is essentially, probably, the best player on his college team. So there’s a reason everyone’s here. It’s just a matter of being able to prove yourself.”

Going from 26.7 ppg as a senior to 3.0 as a rookie wouldn’t be anyone’s idea of fun. McDermott just hopes it’s his idea of done.

“Being a rookie with my rep, everyone wanted to come at me. It’s part of the deal,” he said. “But I’m a competitor – I like that stuff. So I’m not going to back down.”

11 Comments

  1. Tom says:

    It’s really funny – Thib made McD shoot from outside and in my opinion restricted him from going inside. Yet those of us who have watched him know that most of his shots, I would say 70-80% were just like the ones he is making now so it’s nothing new as announcers and writers have said – they just haven’t really reviewed on film what eh ahs done in college. See this link for example: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CLWYwOFTPDQ

  2. Phil says:

    Doug is a competitor. I was at the Toronto game on Thursday and saw him take over that game in the 2nd half. I think he will have a long NBA career and look forward to watching him.

  3. mark says:

    He has some style in his play and will be able to play D he can score it and belive me the bulls will be a new look bulls if they can go to him to score and snell along with Butler noah gasol capt kirk DROSE

  4. harriethehawk says:

    I thought Derick Rose would have been chosen for a ESPY for comeback player of the year….

  5. Larry Robertson says:

    Mc Dermott will get playing time, he will become a better defender and he will shoot the lights out of the ball. He is a competitor and a ball player and he will get better. No doubt!

  6. Omar says:

    And they also got mirotic so if mcdermott is a bust they can trade for draft picks

  7. Omar says:

    The bulls r a fifty win team even with mcdermott being a benchwarmer. Soveather way, unless drose, noah, paul, butler or gibson gets hurt bad, they r gonna be good next yr. thats if mcdermott still is bad if hes good, they can be first or second seed in the eastern conference

  8. Connor says:

    hambone: You wish! We will keep RJ Hunter, and Terry Rozier, and Marcus Thornton. You drafted McDermott, develop him!

  9. SourPatch says:

    Let him get more rotation minutes, it’s not like it’ll hurt them. What’s there to hurt 😂 I can recall a couple of times in the playoffs itself when the Bulls wouldn’t score a few FG’s for like idk how many minutes. Another fresh shooter off the bench couldn’t hurt that bad

  10. hambone says:

    Doug will be riding the bench another yr. There’s no space for him on the Bulls roster. Mirotic plays the same way as Doug only he’s a better defender, and Dunleavy is a better shooter, and has more experience with his Bulls teammates. The Bulls should trade McDermott and allow him to grow where he’s likely to receive some PT. McDermott to Boston for RJ Hunter.

    • Fro says:

      Mirotic a better defender? lol i have never heard the words defense and Mirotic used in a positive way in the same sentence