Bulls: McDermott seemingly starting from scratch in Summer League


Bulls: McDermott seemingly starting from scratch in Summer League

LAS VEGAS--Perfect placement, perfect form, impeccable release.

Only Klay Thompson’s shooting form rivals Doug McDermott’s fundamentals in today’s NBA, seemingly, but Thompson’s results are more proof of his process than that of the 11th pick in the 2014 Draft.

McDermott finds himself battling the bad luck of last year along with trying to find himself mixed into an environment where his opponents are desperate to earn a guaranteed contract in the NBA’s Summer League.

There were moments where you could see flashes of his being able to score in bunches, moments where issues surrounding his confidence is mere conjecture and not reality.

He couldn’t buy a basket early, like many of the Bulls in their 81-66 loss to the Toronto Raptors at Las Vegas’ Cox Pavilion, going scoreless until the third quarter.

Then the second-year player started filling it up.

[RELATED: New Bulls coach Fred Hoiberg has low-key opening in Summer League]

He scored seven straight, which was followed by a Jab-fake-jab on the wing where that textbook jumper fell easily.

“It is a big year for Doug,” said Bulls coach Fred Hoiberg. “I thought he got it going in the second half. When he starts making baskets you can play through him. I think he’s gonna have that ability.”

Who knows if he’ll get those isolation opportunities on a team where Derrick Rose and Jimmy Butler promise to get the time and space to create shots on the regular. With veteran Mike Dunleavy being rewarded with a three-year deal recently after displaying an ability to take advantage of open shots, it shows that’s what the Bulls are looking for—even in someone who’ll prevent McDermott from getting on the floor this season.

“He had great looks,” Hoiberg said. “I thought he passed up a couple. He can’t do that. Doug’s got an open shot, he’s gotta shoot it.”

“I have a lot of confidence in Doug and I’ve been trying to portray that to him. And get him to go and play with confidence. He’s obviously a gifted scorer.”

Imploring McDermott to shoot the ball when open seems like a foreign proposition, but it’s almost like he’s starting from scratch after a nondescript rookie season marred by a knee injury early, then inactivity upon his healthy return.

He had a few good games before injuring his knee, then couldn’t crack the rotation for more than spot minutes after the All-Star break and into the playoffs.

[MORE SUMMER LEAGUE: Portis impresses in Summer League opener]

“It’s tough. A lot of guys go through that early on, especially with a veteran team like Chicago last year,” Hoiberg said. “When he had the injury, Chicago was playing great and was playing guys who had it rolling. Tom (Thibodeau) went with the guys he felt could win games. Doug has to go in the mode of being a basketball player. He’s very versatile.”

“I’m not gonna lose that confidence because I believe in myself and my game,” McDermott said. “There’s gonna be nights where I don’t shoot well, don’t play great. But it’s part of the game and I’ll work extremely hard to get through it.”

Sunday was one of those nights as he finished with just 11 points, nine coming in that quick third-quarter flurry.

During his 5-for-13 showing, he rushed shots a bit and clapped his hands two possessions after his last miss, moments before he exited the game for the final time, a slight display of frustration.

“You gotta keep it all in perspective,” McDermott said. “If I have a good game, it’s good for my confidence because I haven’t played a lot of 5-on-5 last year. Any 5-on-5 competition is huge for me because I didn’t get a lot of experience. I’m just starting to get my feet wet.”

While he’s one of the players in Vegas on a guaranteed contract as opposed to hoping to impress a current team or another franchise, it’s clear McDermott feels the pressure to perform.

[NBC SPORTS SHOP: Buy a Doug McDermott jersey]

The opportunities in this setting are immense, even if the play is far more physical and less structured. He’s reshuffled the weight in his body, gaining a bit to get to 225 pounds but he feels more adept to playing a power forward if need be.

The unconventionality of the playoffs showed he may have to be ready in the event the Bulls want to play smaller on occasion, and the strength means he must be ready to defend his position.

“He’s a basketball player,” Hoiberg said. “You look at different lineups that happened in the playoffs. Was (Golden State’s) Harrison Barnes ever in his life a (power forward)? No. But he played it in the playoffs.”

Whether at guard or even big forward, McDermott will have to maximize every opportunity to display that fundamental jumper.

And making a few wouldn’t hurt, either.

Could Ryan Arcidiacono be in line for more minutes?


Could Ryan Arcidiacono be in line for more minutes?

The Bulls backup point guard situation will be in dire straits all season, with no established veteran behind Kris Dunn. And although the front office has seemingly committed to Cameron Payne as the backup PG (for at least this season), Ryan Arcidiacono showed enough in the season opener to justify giving him meaningful plying time in the rotation. 

Here are the stat lines of Arcidiacono and Cameron Payne from the season opener in Philadelphia:

Arcidiacono: 8 points, 8 assists, 4 rebounds, 2-for-3 from the 3-point line

Payne:           0 points, 5 assists, 1 rebound, 0-for-1 from the 3-point line

With so many capable ball handlers and score-first players on the Bulls, point and assist totals aren’t as important as the rebounds and 3-point attempts. To provide the necessary space needed for driving lanes, there has to be openings in the defense caused by defenders sticking close to player they believe are a threat to shoot.

And that is where the problem lies with Payne.

Ryan Arcidiacono—while by no means a dominant scorer—showed a willingness to attack off of the pick-and-roll, even showing off an impressive ball-fake:

Payne, despite coming into the league with the reputation of a scorer, has yet to be aggressive enough to make teams think twice about leaving him wide-open on the perimeter. And he is not one to attack the basket with purpose, averaging less than half a free throw per game for his career. Payne's general lack of aggressiveness when on the floor is often times made worse by his occasional poor post entry passes that seem predetermined:

Even if the above play was designed to get the ball to LaVine in the mid-post, Payne chooses a terrible time to make the pass. When he starts the motion to give the ball to LaVine, Ben Simmons is positioned in front of LaVine to force a tougher pass, as rookie Landry Shamet gambles over the backside to get the steal.

Had Payne chose to swing the ball around the perimeter, or give it to Bobby Ports and then get it back, he could have created an opening for the LaVine pass.

Obviously, the Bulls 19-point loss can’t be blamed on solely on Payne, the terrible defense was a group effort, as was the sometimes questionable shot selection. But with the defense already appearing to be perhaps one of the league's worst units, Fred Hoiberg would be wise to put Arcidiacono in more.

Hoiberg is in a crucial year where he needs to show that he can be the head coach of this team when they finally become competitive.

And for Hoiberg to show that type of growth as a coach, he needs to set the tone that minutes are earned not given, something he has already started with his moving of Jabari Parker to the bench. Payne only received 22 minutes, compared to 28 minutes for Arcidiacono, and it is tough to see that changing if things continue on like they did on Thursday night.

Zach LaVine, Bobby Portis show offensive promise in opener: 'That's what we expect'


Zach LaVine, Bobby Portis show offensive promise in opener: 'That's what we expect'

PHILADELPHIA -- It’s not a surprise to see Zach LaVine leading the Bulls’ offense.

The $78-million man was terrific despite a 127-108 loss to the 76ers at the Wells Fargo Center on Thursday. LaVine poured in 30 points on 11 of 19 from the field.

What may come as a surprise is the brilliance of Bobby Portis. Portis was excellent in his own right, recording 20 points and 11 boards while playing his usual aggressive brand of basketball.

Unfortunately, both players found themselves in foul trouble early in the second half as Philadelphia started to impose its will with a 19-3 run to start the third quarter.

The Bulls got off to a blazing hot start, scoring 41 points in the opening quarter. They trailed by just seven at the half thanks in large part to LaVine and Portis. The duo worked well together in the pick-and-roll, at times confusing the 76ers on how exactly to play it.

“I expect that,” LaVine said when asked about the team’s early offensive output. “That’s what I expect from myself and I know Bobby is right there with me. Bobby had it going and that’s what he’s been doing for the last year or so, too, so that’s what we expect.”

Perhaps the play of Portis shouldn’t come as much of a surprise considering his success against Philadelphia in his career. He tallied a career-high 38 points in a one-point loss to the Sixers last season. He’s also shot 55 percent against them for his career in 11 games coming into tonight, his second-highest mark against any team.

With rookie Wendell Carter Jr. struggling in his first NBA start, Portis saw some time at the five, something Hoiberg alluded to as a possibility prior to the game. Portis earned the start in place of the injured Lauri Markkanen with an impressive preseason. His play carried over into opening night.

Portis may not be long for the starting lineup once Markkanen returns, but he certainly showed his worth Thursday.

As for LaVine, he showed flashes of a guy that can be the focal point of an offense. While he had the jumper working, his finishes around the rim were more impressive. Especially when you consider a few of them came against Joel Embiid, the runner up for Defensive Player of the Year last season.

“I love Zach’s attack,” Fred Hoiberg said. “I thought, especially early in the game, he didn’t settle for shots. He was getting around his guy and seeking contact and doing a good job getting to the free throw line.”

The Bulls weren’t expected to win this game and will experience plenty of growing pains this season – especially while the injuries continue to pile up.

What Bulls fans can glean from opening night is that the team’s investment in a healthy LaVine may prove to be money well spent.

 “Yeah, man,” LaVine said after he was asked if he’s feeling healthier than he did last year. “A year after tearing my ACL I feel like I’m back to myself – athletically, speed-wise, quickness. I’ve got my legs under me. I just needed y’all to give me a little bit of time.

“I was about 70 percent last year and I think I did alright. I feel good now. It feels good to be back in my own skin again.”