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McDermott, Bulls look forward to competing in Vegas
By Adam Fluck | 07.10.2014
One could argue that wins and losses at the NBA Summer League in Las Vegas don’t mean a lot in the big scheme of things. Just don’t tell that to Doug McDermott and the Chicago Bulls.
While teams are able to work on the development of their rookies and see which other young talent might be worthy of an NBA roster spot in the fall, the players simply want to win.
“Our first goal is to win the thing,” said McDermott on Thursday. “Individual statistics don’t matter; we want to show that we can play together. I’m trying to learn defensively as much as I am offensively. I’m just playing my hardest and hopefully we can all show we belong.”
Adrian Griffin, serving as head coach for the Bulls summer league squad, echoed McDermott’s sentiment.
“Number one, you do want to win,” said Griffin. “It’s a competition. If you’re going out there, you may as well try to win it. That’s a mentality you have to have. If every guy puts everything they have into it, I believe we’ll give ourselves a good chance of winning. But you also want to make sure guys are playing basketball the right way.”
After opening minicamp on Tuesday evening and holding two-a-day sessions Wednesday and Thursday, Chicago will practice one last time Friday before heading west.
“It’s been a great time for us to get used to the system and sets,” said McDermott of the minicamp. “It’s been a grind and it feels like two-a-days in college again, but it’s for the better.”
For McDermott, as well as fellow draftee Cameron Bairstow, it’s another step in the process of getting acclimated to a new team and the NBA in general.
“The intensity and the speed of the practices are a lot different than what most of us are used to,” acknowledged McDermott. “With coach [Tom] Thibodeau and his staff, it’s a lot of boom, boom, next drill. You’re always moving throughout the whole practice. It’s definitely been an adjustment for a lot of us.”
Griffin explained that’s all part of ensuring the rookies are ready for what’s to come in roughly two and a half months when training camp opens.
“The biggest thing I preach to our young guys and our rookies is that when practice starts, Tom moves with a great pace,” said Griffin. “If you’re not able to transition from one thing to another and mentally be engaged, then you’re going to fall behind. Whether it’s changing from drill to drill or talking and communicating on defense, you’ve got to keep up mentally with what we’re doing. That’s going to be crucial come training camp.”
But first things first, as the Bulls will play the first of three preliminary games on Saturday evening at 7:30 p.m. CT against the L.A. Clippers. They’ll be back in action on Sunday at 7:00 p.m. CT against the Denver Nuggets, a game that will air live on NBA TV.
While McDermott is perhaps best known for his ability to knock down shots from the outside, he and the Bulls are eager to show he can help his team in more ways than one.
“He brings a skill to the table in that he is an excellent shooter and defenses will have to respect that,” said Griffin of McDermott. “Even when you look ahead to the season and you have him and Derrick [Rose] and Joakim [Noah] in the lineup, they’ll be able to spread the floor and open things up so Derrick can operate and make teams pay for overhelping or collapsing on a big man. Joakim is very good off the dribble and he’s able to find guys spotting up.
“Shooting is something we’ve needed but that’s not the only thing he does,” added Griffin of McDermott. “He can put it on the floor and he can post up. He’s a very versatile player.”
Whether it is Thibodeau or Griffin, being coached by someone other than his father will also be an adjustment for McDermott. Greg McDermott coached Doug during his four years at Creighton and he was in the building on Thursday for practice.
“Obviously he can’t get over it because he’s coming out here to watch us,” laughed the younger McDermott. “But it’s really cool. I like adjusting to new coaches and I’m a coachable guy. The change is going to be a great experience.”
McDermott said he also looks forward to an early opportunity to prove he’s a better defender than given credit, even at the professional level.
“No doubt,” said McDermott. “A lot of people look and me and think I can’t play defense. But being coached by guys like this is really going to help me. I’m learning so much every day about different positions and different movements, and it’s only going to help me.”
Griffin is also confident that McDermott will keep improving as a defender as he gets acclimated to Chicago’s system and Thibodeau’s defensive style.
“If you look historically at a lot of the players who have come here, some have not been known as great defensive players but they tend to improve within our system,” noted Griffin. “I think Tom has a great way of teaching the defense so that all the guys buy in to it. I don’t see why it will be any different with Doug. He’s going to get better because it is something we drill every day. We preach it every day and we hold guys accountable. Doug is a very intelligent player, so I don’t see any problem with him picking things up.”
Beyond summer league, McDermott said he expects to spend most of his time this offseason in Chicago preparing for the season. It’s a situation he’s excited to be in and he can’t wait to make the most of it.
“I feel so comfortable here,” said McDermott. “Everyone pushes each other. It’s hard, but that’s the way it’s supposed to be. It’s a great organization to be a part of just because everyone here will push me to become the best player that I can be.”