Whether it was truly a last-second decision to change the starting lineup or a coy tactic to keep an opponent off track will always be a subject for debate in Fred Hoiberg’s first year. But switching out Tony Snell for Doug McDermott proves set ideals in this transition will probably be thrown out the window.
“It probably will be an evolving thing,” Hoiberg said. “We made the decision with Doug really just about an hour before the game when we made that final decision to start him. It wasn’t anything that we were not pleased with. It was just a rotation thing and we wanted to have a secondary defender with (Kevin) Durant in case Jimmy (Butler) got in foul trouble, which happened. Tony was able to come off the bench fresh and give some good quality minutes on Durant at the defensive end.”
Until Mike Dunleavy comes back from his back surgery, something that could be at least several weeks away, who starts could be dependent on matchups for that night.
McDermott said he was informed at Thursday morning’s shootaround and definitively told before the Bulls’ 104-98 win over the Oklahoma City Thunder, where only at the latter did Hoiberg leave the door cracked for a change in the first five.
For what it’s worth, McDermott had enough time to call his mother back home and for her to get on a flight to Chicago for his first career start, a feat he didn’t take lightly no matter the circumstances.
“I think it was just a better matchup for me against (Andre) Roberson than against (Dion) Waiters or any of those guys,” McDermott said. “So yeah, I found out at shootaorund and informed me before the game again to make sure.”
In his first career start, McDermott scored nine points in 23 minutes but his presence didn’t stop the Bulls from getting off to a slow start, prompting Hoiberg to put in a couple new sets offensively to stimulate movement.
But it doesn’t mean for sure McDermott is starting Saturday against Dallas, although it would be a decent bet to assume so.
“I don’t know, it’s all depends on who Minnesota goes with to be honest,” McDermott said. “I’ll be ready for either, it really doesn’t matter to me. As long as I’m contributing to winning, that’s all that matters.”
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If Hoiberg was oblivious to the possible mixed signals he sent before Thursday’s game, he was even less aware of the mini-panic that took place in the wake of Tuesday’s embarrassing loss to the Charlotte Hornets—quelled by the relief of Thursday’s encouraging win.
“You want to play your best when it matters most. Right now, we’ve had a couple really good performances. We beat Cleveland opening night and OKC,” Hoiberg said. “The other ones, we played really well for stretches. A big chunk of that Orlando game, we played maybe as well as we have all year. It’s trying to build towards that ultimate goal, playing your best basketball when it matters most. And that’s playoff time, which is a long way away.”
“It’s just the highs and lows of the season. The good thing is the way our guys bounced back after that awful loss we had. Now here’s the flip side: We had a great emotional win and you have to move past that one.”