McDermott shakes off slow start, shines in Hoiberg's Bulls offense


McDermott shakes off slow start, shines in Hoiberg's Bulls offense

When Fred Hoiberg was announced as Bulls head coach in early June, many predicted his up-tempo offensive style would perfectly suit Doug McDermott's game.

Granted, Tuesday night's 105-95 preseason victory was just that, and the Bulls were missing four key contributors, but McDermott's 23-point second-half explosion was certainly an auspicious start for the second-year sharpshooter.

"It’s a blast. (Hoiberg) makes it fun, he makes it a lot of fun for us. We move the ball real well, real unselfish, get open looks, he’s not going to pull you out if you have a bad shot," McDermott said after the game. "It’s one of those deals where he just lets you play your game."

McDermott's second half, which included 8-for-14 shooting and five 3-pointers in just 16 minutes, was a stark contrast from a forgettable first half in which he missed all five of his shots, including three open 3-point attempts and a transition layup.

The rookie version of McDermott, who shot less than 32 percent from beyond the arc and fell out of Tom Thibodeau's rotation following knee surgery in November, might not have had the confidence to continue shooting — he struggled in the preseason during his rookie campaign, too.

[MORE BULLS: Bulls launch 39 triples, open Hoiberg Era with preseason win over Bucks]

But the Creighton sharpshooter entered his second season with a different mentality. He spent time in the offseason with Jimmy Butler in San Diego for two weeks where Butler said his confidence improved significantly.

"If Doug’s confident he’s going to be a b-word in this league," Butler deadpanned, "because he can really shoot the hell out of the ball. And if he just doesn’t get down when he misses his first three shots and just wait on that one to go in ... once you get that one, you start rolling.

"He’s going to have a game where he shoots 0-for-15. I’ll probably have more than he will. But it doesn’t matter. It’s part of the game. You can’t let that stop you. If you’re shooting 0-for-15, try to go 1-for-16. Don’t stop shooting at 0-for-15."

McDermott wasn't alone in his slow start, either. He said after the game that the Bulls needed time adjusting to shooting in the United Center for the first time since training camp began, going 3-for-20 from beyond the arc and shooting 28 percent as they trailed the Bucks, 40-37, at the break.

The Bulls heated up with McDermott in the second half, shooting 10-for-19 from deep and outscoring the Bucks by 13.

"For (McDermott) to come out and continue to shoot was a great sign," Hoiberg said after the game. "Might have put his head down a little bit in the past, but he kept his confidence going and it was great to see, I thought he even turned down a couple in the second half when he got hot."

[MORE BULLS: Kidd: Bucks 'learning how to win' as rivalry with Bulls blossoms]

True, McDermott's 23 second-half points came when Jason Kidd had already emptied his bench and sat down his starters — sans rookie Rashad Vaughn — and created a Summer League-type setting that McDermott has thrived in each of the last two seasons. But to have a breakout game in a Bulls uniform in front of the United Center crowd and his entire coaching staff watching was something different, and more important for his progression that must be expedited in the wake of Mike Dunleavy's back surgery, which will keep him out at least the season's first month.

Hoiberg said before the game that he planned on using the preseason to help determine his rotation, adding that numbers and analytics can only take strategy and evaluation so far. His evaluation will include judging McDermott and Tony Snell, who started at small forward Tuesday night, for small forward minutes. McDermott will start Thursday against the Nuggets, a move Hoiberg had decided on before Tuesday's game, as the two battle for minutes behind Jimmy Butler and presumably Nikola Mirotic (18 points, 7-for-10 shooting) on the wing.

Snell has proven to be a reserve contributor, and Tuesday he went 3-for-9 with seven points, five rebounds and two assists in 31 minutes. But Hoiberg's offense caters to shooters as evidenced by the Bulls' 39 3-point attempts. That should mean plenty of opportunities for McDermott to show off his range, and though it's just one preseason game the early returns were positive.

"That’s kind of what I’m judged on. I’m a shooter. If I’m making shots probably going to be out there longer. If I’m missing you never know," he said. "So tonight I had it going, it’s preseason game No. 1 and just have to keep building on it.

"It felt good. That's what they brought me here for."

Three Things to Watch: Bulls-76ers

NBC Sports Chicago

Three Things to Watch: Bulls-76ers

The Bulls square off against the Sixers tonight on NBC Sports Chicago, with coverage beginning at 6:30 with Bulls Pregame Live. Here are three things to watch as the Bulls begin the stretch run of their regular season.

1. The new rotation: Most of the Bulls’ rotation looks the same, but the addition of David Nwaba, Cristiano Felicio and Cameron Payne will have a different feel. The Bulls clearly want to get a look at these guys before the end of the regular season, meaning they’re not just going to get sporadic minutes. They’ll have to play through their mistakes, play out-matched at times and be put in uncomfortable situations. But the Bulls need to see what they have, especially in Payne, who has missed the entire season to this point with a broken foot.

2. Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons: They’re quite the 1-2 punch and have the Sixers looking at their first playoff appearance since Derrick Rose hadn’t yet torn an ACL. Yeah, that’s a long time. Embiid just finished his first All-Star appearance (starting in his second year) and Simmons is the front runner for Rookie of the Year. The Bulls will have their hands full with these two. Luckily…

3. Kris Dunn is back: The Bulls wanted to get Dunn some run before heading to All-Star Weekend to play in the Rising Stars Challenge, and he looked healthy in that thumping against the Raptors last week. The good news is John Paxson says Dunn won’t be on a minutes limit, which means he’s healthy. That, of course, is more important than how he’s playing. It’ll be fun to see him, LaVine and Markkanen play together down the stretch. Their numbers together aren’t great, but the Bulls are 2-2 with all three in the lineup, and tanking or not…it’s more fun to watch when those three are rolling. 

SportsTalk Live Podcast: Of Bulls and Blackhawks, which team will finish with higher draft pick?


SportsTalk Live Podcast: Of Bulls and Blackhawks, which team will finish with higher draft pick?

On the latest SportsTalk Live Podcast, Patrick Finley (Chicago Sun-Times), Hub Arkush (ProFootball Weekly) and Jason Goch (SB Nation) join Kap on the panel.

The guys debate which team will finish with a higher draft pick when the season ends: Bulls or Blackhawks?

Plus, hear their reaction to the MLB’s new pace-of-play rule change.

Listen to the full SportsTalk Live Podcast right here: