Chicago native Anthony Davis holds his own in U.S. opener

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Chicago native Anthony Davis holds his own in U.S. opener

LAS VEGAS No, it isnt the same as hometown hero and Bulls point guard Derrick Rose playing in the Olympics. But since the All-Star and former league MVP cant compete due to his torn ACL, No. 1 overall draft pick Anthony Davis member of the rival Miami Heat Dwayne Wade, another Windy City resident, will also miss out on the experience, due to his own recent knee surgery is as close as Chicago will get to a mens basketball player representing the city in London.
Of course, its not set in stone yet, but now that Clippers All-Star power forward Blake Griffins spot is reportedly jeopardized due to a torn meniscus suffered in Wednesdays scrimmage according to reports, the recent recipient of a five-year, 95-million maximum contract will miss the Olympics, but be ready for Clippers training camp Davis, the lone big-man alternate that was left off the original Team USA roster, looks to be London-bound. His performance in Thursdays Team USA exhibition debut didnt hurt his chances either.
After not practicing with the national team Davis practiced Tuesday with the Select Team; his own ankle injury initially appeared to take him out of the running the former Kentucky All-American sat for the first three periods of the contest against the Dominican Republic, a team guided by his college coach, John Calipari. It seemed as if he wouldnt see any action, then he started the fourth quarter and showed the potential that made observers consider him the lone franchise-changing player in the draft.
I was telling him he doesnt get a summer league. In actuality, this is his first NBA game. Hes such a great kid. Were having fun over there with him, but I told him, at the same time, go out there and play hard, show everyone you belong to be here and that youre not here just because youre the No. 1 pick, and he was great and he did a great job, said Clippers All-Star point guard Chris Paul, whose teammate is the injured Griffin. Ironically, Paul began his career in New Orleans, where Davis will play for the Hornets.
He was hurt during training camp, but we all watched him play in college, just like everyone else. Hes got a lot to learn, but what better team to be on than this one to learn how to play, Paul added.
Upon checking in, Davis looked to have a case of the jitters, but eventually found his groove and got on the board by showing off the ball skills a steal, then pushing the ball the length of the court and getting fouled on a layup attempt he retained from his days at Chicagos Perspectives Charter School. After it looked it looked like he would exit the game midway through the stanza, he was inserted back into the contest alongside center Tyson Chandler and power forward Kevin Love, so he was essentially playing on the wing.
Then, he put his package of skills on display, hitting a left-handed jump hook in the paint, snagging an offensive rebound and finishing a put-back layup and lastly, converting a four-point play after getting knocked down in the process of making a three-pointer, getting a rise out of both the crowd and his superstar teammates. And while he wasnt completely flawless, he showed that his hype was justified. Sure, he wasnt Team USAs go-to guy the Hornets hope hell develop into in New Orleans, but the flashes of brilliance show that the 19-year-old is ready for the big time, just a few years removed from being a complete unknown.
Great experience. Guys told me just relax and breathe. Have fun, its just a basketball game. I started getting a feel for things, said Davis, who arrived earlier Thursday afternoon after being informed that morning that his services were needed. Just play basketball. I saw the ball go in for the first time and I felt good.
Blakes still on the team. Im just filling in until he gets healthy, wait for Blake to get healthy. Im not on the team; Im still an alternate. I hope Blake gets a speedy recovery, make sure everythings fine with him and hope its all fine, continued the South Sider. Im still filling in until they tell me differentI just filled Blakes spot for tonightIm not sure. Nobodys given me any indication of what Im doing, so hopefully I find out tonight.
Carmelo told me just take a deep breath and its just like college. Youre out here just playing ball. If you really love this game, youre going to be nervous, but when you step on the floor, but youre supposed to have fun. If you love this game like you say you love it, just go play ball and thats what I ended up doing. And it was good to beat Coach Cal.
Chimed in Paul: He can definitely contribute. He hadnt practiced with us, so he came to pre-game meal and just came over here and just came over here, and he came out here with NBA vets, so Id say thats pretty good for the rook.
Again, USA Basketball wouldnt commit to Davis being on the teamGriffin will get a second opinion on his knee injurybut its evident that if he is added to the squad, hell hold his own and not just be the 2012 version of Christian Laettner from the original Dream Team.
I was excited to finally get the opportunity to play, but its still kind of upsetting that Blake went down. Im just trying to make sure that hes healthy, make sure everything goes well, said Davis.
I feel like I learned something today, he added. "KD, LeBron, Melo, Russ, Kobe, all of them clapping, cheering for me and Im supposed to be cheering for these guys. Theyre cheering for me.
I was just trying to enjoy it all.

Doug McDermott's return boosts Bulls' bench

Doug McDermott's return boosts Bulls' bench

Doug McDermott wasn’t exactly hunting for his first shot, but the first time he touched the ball in an NBA game in nearly a month wasn’t the optimal situation for him to let one fly.

It wasn’t in transition where he runs to an opening behind the 3-point line, nor was it a drive-and-kick situation where the help defense collapsed and left him open. It was a regular, simple, pass to the perimeter and McDermott’s defender was in reasonable proximity with 3:23 left in the first quarter.

He launched and the crowd soon roared its approval as his sweet jumper was sorely missed by the Bulls bench brigade—and moments later when he ran the floor for a fearless layup that caused Spurs coach Gregg Popovich to call a timeout, McDermott showed he missed the United Center crowd too, calling for more noise on his way to the bench.

“Anytime you have a guy like Doug, he comes back and makes his first 3, that’s hard to do,” Bulls coach Fred Hoiberg said. “He stepped up with confidence on that first shot. I’m sure he had a lot of nerves getting back out there.”

Missing 12 games and suffering two concussions, McDermott looked right at home in 25 minutes of run Thursday as the Bulls were able to rely on their reserves in some form in their 95-91 win over the previously perfect road warriors known as the Spurs.

“We defended and kept them off the foul line,” McDermott said. “Coach (Jim) Boylen was with them, so we feel we know them and I think all this time they were missing my defense.”

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The last statement was certainly tongue-in-cheek, but the Bulls’ bench production was certainly missing in action while he was out with the concussion protocol. So much so that his return prompted the Bulls’ coaching staff to call out the reserves in the morning shootaround, demanding more.

“It’s definitely Dwyane (Wade) and Jimmy (Butler) and (Rajon) Rondo (but) the coaching staff kinda called out our bench like, we gotta have you tonight, bench,” McDermott said. “We took that to heart, we were really locked in.”

Seemingly his presence aided the Bulls’ spirits and production, as the Bulls’ bench had the least effective scoring bench in the NBA since Nov. 13, the day after McDermott hit the unforgiving floor against the Wizards for his second concussion this season.

Their net rating ranks ahead of only the Wizards, Mavericks and Nets, who are a combined 17-45 this season. Their effective field goal percentage, which takes into account 3-pointers, is worst in the league in that span (42.3 percent).

When McDermott was healthy for that smaller sample size, the Bulls’ bench ranked fifth in offensive efficiency, seventh in net rating, and fifth in efficient field goal percentage. Whether McDermott – and his absence – was directly related to those numbers, it’s clear the Bulls are better when they have their best reserve – and only true floor spacers on the second unit – on the court.

“We’re all professionals and we want to help the guys who are busting their butts in the first unit to get us the leads,” McDermott said. “Tonight we did a great job of sustaining it. We take it personal when teams come back on us.”

[MORE: Pau Gasol relishes consistency with Spurs he couldn't find with Bulls]

Nikola Mirotic was four of eight from the field, and Cristiano Felicio seems to be back in Fred Hoiberg’s good graces as he’s carved out a rotation spot for himself with nine points and seven rebounds in 18 minutes.

It seems as if Hoiberg will stick with this rotation of players, at least for a little while until Michael Carter-Williams returns from his injuries. If McDermott is the mark of the Bulls’ bench going from bottom feeder to adequate, it should show this month.

“When he’s out there on the floor and we get him coming off screens, it forces the defense to shift as another person they need to be aware of,” Hoiberg said. “It opens up driving lanes for our guys. It was great to have Doug back with us.”

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