LAS VEGAS — Bulls first-round draft pick Doug McDermott scored a modest 10 points in his first official NBA game, the team’s 86-70 summer-league opening win over the Clippers.
“It felt good, get the jitters out, first game. But it definitely felt good, though, because the pace of the game is a lot different. That’s going to take some time to get used to, for sure,” said the rookie forward, who added five rebounds and four assists. “It’s crazy, crazy fast, and that 11 seconds (the difference between college basketball’s 35-second shot clock and the NBA’s 24-second clock), it makes a huge difference. It’s a lot more quick decisions, and you’ve got to react quicker. So it’s going to take a little time to get adjusted to, but I think I’ll be just fine.
“Not great. Got the win. I got a little too sped-up at times, but it’s the first game and I just look forward to tomorrow,” he continued, when asked to assess his play. “I think I made some careless turnovers and a couple dumb plays, posting up a little too far away from the hoop when I didn’t have position. But that’s stuff I can clean up and be better at tomorrow."
A fan favorite, McDermott couldn’t help but notice the adulation he received when he knocked down his first shot.
“Talking to Tony (Snell) before the game, he said, ‘Once you see that first one go in, everything will be fine.’ So that’s kind of the way it was for me. Once I made that first shot, I felt like I was better on defense and more into the game,” he explained. “There’s a lot of fans in there, a lot of little kids that look up to me. That’s the way it is. It’s great to have that support, but it puts a little more pressure on you.”
McDermott added that the strength of opposing players in the NBA, even in summer league, was an adjustment to him after being able to thrive as a post-up power forward, in addition to a long-range sharpshooter, during his All-American career at Creighton.
“I got pushed off the block. I’m used to, in college, getting deeper position, but out here, those guys aren’t going to allow that. So I’ve definitely got to get stronger and a little bit more patient. I think I got a little too sped-up, and I think that’s normal for your first game,” he explained. “Those guys were just being real physical with me. They weren’t allowing me to get anything really and they did a great job, so that allowed Tony to free up, too, because they were so glued on to me coming off that screen that he was able to get great looks.
“I wasn’t in a whole lot of position to get to the basket much. It’s more me coming off screens, and Tony was really hot, so we were giving him the ball pretty much every time,” McDermott continued. “In college, I guarded all fours, and now I’m being asked to guard threes and twos, guys on the wing. So I’m still learning that, too. So that takes a lot of mental preparation to go on the floor. It’s all a learning process for me and I think I’ll adjust to it well.”
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Though he’s aware of Bulls head coach Tom Thibodeau’s habit of not playing rookies big minutes, McDermott is set on breaking the trend.
“I feel like it’s too early to tell. I feel like I’m going to have to gain his respect, definitely. I feel like I’m going to have to work my tail off to get to that point, and I definitely will. I’ll be in Chicago all summer, up until training camp, working on my game, getting back in shape, and we’ll see what happens,” he explained.
Prior to the game, Thibodeau praised McDermott, though he cautioned against a first-year player having too big of a role in the professional ranks.
“He can shoot. Like all rookies when they come in, and I think you have to look at it as there’s a steep learning curve. If you look at all the minutes that rookies played this year, it wasn’t a lot. You just go day-by-day, improve. We had the (Summer League) practices, and now we’ll see where he is with Summer League games. But both he and (second-round pick Cameron) Bairstow have done a good job. They’re really good workers, I’m pleased with that. Pleased with their professionalism, so they’re the type of guys that will help your squad improve,” explained Thibodeau. “With Jimmy (Butler), the thing is, and I think it would have helped him to learn the NBA game faster (if not for the lockout), but again, he was a four-year player and that’s similar to Doug. The big thing is you got to learn, and opportunity, when it comes up you’ve got to be ready to take advantage of it. The big thing is the shooting, and we feel he can do that. I think that compliments Derrick (Rose) well.”