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."

Wendell Carter Jr. survives gauntlet of centers to begin career


Wendell Carter Jr. survives gauntlet of centers to begin career

Don't tell Wendell Carter Jr. the center position is a dying breed.

The 19-year-old rookie hasn't exactly been able to ease into the NBA, finding himself up against a handful of All-Stars and powerful frontcourts just five days into his career.

It culminated Monday night with a date against Mavericks center DeAndre Jordan, and once again the seventh overall pick held his own. It was much of the same as it was against Philadelphia's Joel Embiid and Detroit's Andre Drummond last week (and Nikola Jokic in the preseason finale): some good, some bad, plenty of poise and zero backing down. The NBA is unforgiving, but this could very well be the toughest stretch Carter faces all season.

"He’s playing against top level centers now," Fred Hoiberg said before Monday's game. "It’s a great experience for him. He’s going to learn and get better and he plays within himself, we will continue to look for him to be more aggressive."

He was as aggressive as the Bulls have seen him against Jordan and the Mavericks. He blew by the 20 and 18 minutes he played in the first two games of the year, totalling 32 minutes. His final line won't tell the story - 4 points, 9 rebounds, 4 assists and a block - of a Carter who defended well at the rim, picking and choosing his spots on when to attack shots and when to simply use his verticality.

He wasn't credited for a block but he contested a Jordan dunk that turned into a Bobby Portis dunk on the other end. Plus-minus isn't always a good indicator of a player's worth, but Carter was a +5 in a 14-point Bulls loss. He even attempted a corner 3-pointer early in the shot clock, showing no hesitation. Carter's had his moments, but it's also apparent he's got a 19-year-old body going up against veterans each night. That'll come with time in the weight room. For now the experience is 

"I appreciate the fact I’m able to play against these very talented bigs early in my career," Carter said after the loss to the Pistons. "What I need to work on is I have to get stronger; that’s the first thing I recognize; just being up against the best. I love the competition. It’s always a great feeling going against the best."

What the Bulls are finding out is they have a player mature beyond his years. As he progresses he'll continue to get more difficult assignments. He had his rookie moment late in Monday's loss, committing a turnover in the backcourt after the Bulls had cut the deficit to five with 35 seconds left. The fouls are also an issue, as Carter has committed 10 in three games (after committing 17 in five preseason games).

That doesn't necessarily seem important for a Lottery-bound team, but considering the continued struggles of Robin Lopez (and Cristiano Felicio is entirely out of the rotation) it is. Lopez had 2 points and 1 rebound in 10 minutes while committing five personal fouls. In three games he has 11 personal fouls and 11 points, and also has more turnovers (five) than rebounds (four). If the Bulls are going to compete until Lauri Markkanen returns, Carter will need to hover around the 32 minutes he played Monday.

He'll get a much easier test on Wednesday when the Charlotte Hornets arrive in town. Cody Zeller doesn't exactly have the credentials of a Jokic or Embiid, meaning Carter may have a little more room to work. 

The Bulls know they have something in Carter. It'll be abother month until they can deploy him alongside Markkanen, but if the first three games are any indication, Carter won't have any problems matching up with some of the league's best.

SportsTalk Live Podcast: Moral victory for the Bears?


SportsTalk Live Podcast: Moral victory for the Bears?

David Schuster, Adam Jahns and Patrick Finley join Kap on the panel.

0:00- Dave Wannstedt joins the panel to discuss the Bears 38-31 loss to the Patriots? Was it a moral victory? Is Matt Nagy crazy to say Mitch Trubisky didn’t play that bad?

13:00- Joe Girardi pulls his name out of the Reds managerial search and Jon Heyman reports that industry sources believe he might wait to see if there’s an opening in Chicago. What are the chances that he replaces Joe Maddon?

14:30- Adam Amin joins Kap to preview the Bulls/Mavericks game and discuss the lack of defense in the NBA.