Doug McDermott Must Seize Early Chance While Jimmy Butler Recovers from Injury

The best opportunities don’t always arise from the best circumstances.

That appears to be the case for Chicago Bulls rookie Doug McDermott, who might open his debut campaign with a much larger role than initially anticipated.

It all comes down to the health of perimeter stopper Jimmy Butler, an All-Defensive second-team selection in 2013-14. The 25-year-old suffered a sprained left thumb during Chicago’s preseason tilt with the Charlotte Hornets on October 19, casting a cloud of uncertainty over his availability out of the gate.

While initially thought to be a game-time decision for Chicago’s season opener Wednesday night, Butler has since has been ruled out of the contest, per K.C. Johnson of the Chicago Tribune. As for how long he’ll be out of the action, well, that remains a mystery.

Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau said Butler would be out two-to-four weeks, per ESPN Chicago’s Nick Friedell:

Butler, however, chimed in that he’s hoping to return as soon as Friday, per Johnson:

No one seems to know just how long this might last, Thibodeau included.

“Two-to-four (weeks), one-to-three, I don’t know what it is,” the coach told reporters Wednesday. “He’s not comfortable going yet, so when he is, he will.”

Even amid the mass of question marks, one thing seems fairly certain: The window is now open for McDermott to make his mark. Whether it’s open a crack or something larger than that is moot.

Regardless of the size of this opportunity, the point is that it absolutely exists.

Now, that might not sound surprising to some given the way McDermott paved his NBA path.

He left Creighton University sitting fifth on the NCAA’s all-time scoring list with 3,150 career points. He was a three-time All-American, a three-time conference player of the year and a four-time All-Conference first-teamer.

He turned enough heads at the collegiate level for the Bulls to part with two first-round selections to bring him on board. Considering Chicago’s investment in his talent and his level of success prior to hitting the Windy City, he may have seemed primed for a substantial role.

Before Butler went down, though, McDermott actually appeared more likely to have nothing more than a part-time spot in Thibodeau‘s rotation.

“There are several players in place who have the time in Thibs‘ system that McDermott lacks, and once again, [Tony] Snell could have something to say about the minutes the rookie gets,” Blog A Bull’s Jason Patt wrote in September. “… I’m thinking McDermott plays around 15-20 minutes per game this season.”

Butler’s injury changes everything.

The swingman logged a team-high 38.7 minutes per game last season, a year in which he struggled to fully shake off the effects of a turf-toe injury he suffered in November. He may have rushed that return and has said he will not make the same mistake again.

“This time I’m going to make sure I’m back and ready to go without limitations,” he said, per Bulls.com’s Sam Smith. “(Last year) I had that turf toe. I probably came back a little too early and I was still a little ragged in some parts. This time, I’m going to make sure I’m back 100 percent.”

The championship-hopeful Bulls need Butler at his best, so they won’t force the issue. But they’ll need someone to fill his shoes in the interim. And of all the players up for the position, none carries a deeper bag of scoring tricks than McDermott.

His perimeter prowess may have punched his NBA ticket, but McDermott has the ability to be much more than a gunner, as Bleacher Report’s Daniel O’Brien explained:

McDermott can do more than hit triples, as he’s got a great feel for scoring from any spot on the floor.

He can get defenders to bite on pump-fakes, and then he’s capable of one or two dribbles for a bucket off the glass. In the mid-range, he’s extremely dangerous with an assortment of step-backs and Dirk Nowitzki-esque fadeaways.

Even with Derrick Rose‘s return and the additions of Pau Gasol, Nikola Mirotic and Aaron Brooks, the Bulls need someone with that type of offensive punch.

And scary as this sounds, McDermott could be an even more effective offensive player now with all the help he’ll have around him.

“I’d go on record and say I feel like at the end of the day, if somehow Doug McDermott can be a starter, I think he’s going to get better shots with that starting unit being out there with Pau Gasol and with Derrick Rose,” former Bulls coach and current ESPN analyst Doug Collins told reporters recently.

The Bulls can look at other options for shooters, but they won’t find any who can match McDermott’s offensive arsenal.

At this point in his career, Mike Dunleavy is more of a specialist than anything. Nearly 42 percent of his field-goal attempts came from long range last season, and almost all of his makes were created by someone else: Over 78 percent of his two-point field goals and almost 96 percent of his triples came off assists.

Kirk Hinrich had more success calling his own number—just 38.6 percent of his two-point baskets were assisted—but the 33-year-old has converted his field goals at less than a 40 percent clip during each of the past two seasons.

Sophomore swingman Tony Snell packs an intriguing combination of athleticism and three-point touch. But he only played 16.0 minutes a night as a rookie, and, as Bleacher Report’s Sean Highkin observed, he has yet to prove he has Thibodeau‘s trust:

With so many minutes to fill, all four players should factor into Thibodeau‘s early season rotation. But this is McDermott’s chance to entrench himself into the Bulls’ blueprint going forward.

Thibodeau isn’t the biggest fan of growing pains. During his four seasons at the helm, Snell is the only Bulls rookie to have averaged more than 13 minutes a night.

That said, those growing pains are easier to deal with in October and November than they would be in April and May. If McDermott can play Thibodeau-approved defense, an area in which the rookie will be helped by the likes of reigning Defensive Player of the Year Joakim Noah and rim protector Taj Gibson, McDermott can use this early exposure to secure a larger permanent role than anyone could have imagined would be available to him.

It’s probably not the opportunity McDermott pictured himself receiving. It’s definitely not the way the Bulls wanted to find minutes for the first-year forward.

But it’s a silver lining nonetheless. It’s his chance to turn the franchise’s setback into a step forward for the organization.

 

Unless otherwise noted, statistics used courtesy of Basketball-Reference.com and NBA.com.

Read more NBA news on BleacherReport.com

View full post on Bleacher Report – NBA

An Early Guide to the 2014-15 College Basketball Season: From A to Z

The calendar is about to turn to November, which means we’ve almost made it through the long offseason and college basketball is nearly back.

Practice began Oct. 3 and the first games are set for Nov. 14, with almost daily action until the championship game in Indianapolis next April. In between will no doubt be an endless supply of great games, highlight-reel players and individual performances that will go down in history books.

To help get you primed and ready for the 2014-15 season, we’ve put together an A-to-Z list of things to be aware of and look out for.

Begin Slideshow

View full post on Bleacher Report – College Basketball

How Akron differs from Cleveland on LeBron James

While Cleveland is focused on a title, Akron just happy to have hometown hero back

      
 

 

View full post on USATODAY – NBA Top Stories

DeAndre Jordan now owns a head-turning light cycle from ‘Tron’ (PHOTOS)

Los Angeles Clippers center DeAndre Jordan once owned a 2014 Can-Am Spyder motorcycle, but that wasn’t enough for him. He recently spent $12K to turn it into a light cycle from ‘Tron,’ according to TMZ. Numerous modifications were added to the cycle, and here’s what $12K did (via TMZ). “So, what does it take to turn a Can-Am into a Light Cycle? According to…

View full post on Yardbarker: NBA

Spurs vs. Rockets: Live Score and Highlights from 2014 NBA Preseason

The Houston Rockets and San Antonio Spurs will wrap up their preseason schedules Friday evening when the Southwest Division foes clash at Toyota Center. 

Following a 90-89 victory over the Orlando Magic, Houston will be looking to round out its exhibition slate with a sixth win. 

Thanks to 14 points apiece from Isaiah Canaan and Troy Daniels, the Rockets were able to escape with a narrow victory despite the absences of Dwight Howard and Trevor Ariza

Howard will sit again Friday after suffering a laceration on his forearm that required stitches, according to the Houston Chronicle‘s Jenny Dial Creech

Conversely, the Spurs have compiled a record of 2-4 after falling to the Atlanta Hawks on Wednesday. 

In the loss, five Spurs players scored in double figures, including Tony Parker, who led San Antonio with 17 points and seven assists in 27 minutes. 

Rookie Kyle Anderson put together a nice showing, as well, totaling 10 points, two steals and two rebounds in 18 minutes off the bench. 

You can catch all the action at 8 p.m. ET on NBA TV. 

Keep it locked here on Bleacher Report throughout the night for real-time updates, highlights and analysis of all things Spurs-Rockets. 

Read more NBA news on BleacherReport.com

View full post on Bleacher Report – NBA

Clips from new Disney series, ‘Becoming’ with LeBron James

The Disney Channel is about to premiere its newest series, of course for children, entitled “Becoming,” which will showcase various athletes from their humble beginnings and their rise to stardom.
The first episode will feature the show’s developer, LeBron James.
“There’s no sports programs where parents and kids can sit down and watch it together,” James told USA TODAY Sports. “This made a lot of sense — me being able to come together with Disney and put together a program like this, where parents and kids to sit down together and watch episodes about people they look up to. They can get the history and the story and things they can relate to in their own households.”The pilot episode will debut on Sunday 5:30 p.m. ET and at 8 p.m. ET on Disney…

View full post on Yardbarker: NBA

Sensational Rookie Season from Julius Randle Is What Los Angeles Lakers Need

In the middle of an ongoing rebuilding phase, the Los Angeles Lakers need certain things in order to have any success in a loaded Western Conference. One huge priority will be a sensational season from Julius Randle.

The Lakers suffered through their worst loss record in franchise history last season with a meager 27-55 record. Their consolation prize was the No. 7 pick in the draft lottery. When the big night arrived, they chose Randle—a hard-charging freshman power forward out of Kentucky.

The preseason has offered varying degrees of progress for the 6’9″ lefty, whether through strong inside work or leading a fast break like a runaway bull. It has been both promising and maddening.

Would you expect more from a 19-year-old before the regular season even begins?

Randle is drawing plenty of commentary from his first NBA head coach—at times positive, and in other instances, sharply worded.

After an early preseason loss, Byron Scott described the young rookie as follows, per Arash Markazi of ESPN LA: “I thought he was lost, in the first half especially.”

It is a story as old as sports itself—a tough-love coach and a headstrong, yet impressionable pupil. And in the end, we hopefully learn that the Los Angeles Lakers and Randle need each other in equal measure in order to succeed.

One is a grizzled coach who had to sweat three interviews and an extended wait to get hired by a team he used to play for. The other is a teenager who tends to scatter opponents like bowling pins.

Patience, young grasshopper—you have to learn where your place truly is in the basketball universe.

Scott isn’t the only one wielding both a stick and carrot—reigning franchise cornerstone Kobe Bryant has also been playing the part of the caring taskmaster.

Randle’s place is already becoming clearer—the headlong rushes are gaining control, and his jump shots are starting to fall. It appears that he wants to be more than a bull in a china shop.

As Mark Medina for the Los Angeles Daily News recently wrote, a lottery pick who was touted for his low-post moves is pushing the envelope in other ways:

For all the comparisons Randle has drawn to Memphis’ bruising power forward Zach Randolph, Lakers forward Ed Davis noticed that Randle has mirrored more of the modern version of Lamar Odom. Just as the former Lakers forward interchanged roles as a post player, facilitator and ball handler, Randle has provided the same job description:

‘It’s all about putting pressure on the defense when you can outrun the bigs and have the ball too. That’s what Coach wants me to do every time I get the rebound. I’m pushing the ball and making plays. I’ve been doing it my whole life so I’m comfortable with it.’

Much has been made of the Odom comparisons, but remember—the former Sixth Man of the Year was a chameleon in his prime. His full-court sallies occurred sparingly and when opponents least expected it. He spent long stretches setting up his teammates or concentrating on rebounding. His hesitation moves were a thing of beauty.

On Wednesday night during a win against the Portland Trail Blazers, Randle continued to show improvement with 17 points and eight rebounds in 24 minutes of play. More impressive than the total numbers was his efficiency, with 7-of-10 shooting and a nice mixture of interior play and end-to-end romps—this time at a less frenetic pace.

The second unit worked well together, with Jeremy Lin and Jordan Clarkson making their first appearances after missing several games due to sprained ankles and a calf strain, respectively. Ed Davis and undrafted rookie Roscoe Smith provided interior energy and glass cleaning.

After the game, Scott spoke about his young ward’s evolution, per Serena Winters of Lakers Nation:

I don’t think the kid has really ever had to play hard and I know he hasn’t ever had to work as hard as he’s had to this year. I still expect him to work harder but each game he seems to get a little bit better and that’s the progression that you want, and we all tend to forget that he’s 19. So, you’ve got to give him a little slack at times, even though I don’t, I should I guess.

With the start of the regular season looming, the obvious question becomes how much the Lakers need from Randle and how soon.

So far, the rookie is coming off the bench behind Carlos Boozer—the veteran frontcourt player and perennial starter who the Lakers claimed off amnesty waivers from the Chicago Bulls this season.

It’s likely that role will remain for now and that the young warrior’s lessons will continue unabated. Randle could well be the future of the franchise, but the powers that be don’t want to stunt his development through premature expectations.

Randle is where most young players are before they launch into their first regular-season games—a work in progress and untested when it counts in the NBA. But that doesn’t mean he can’t have a sensational rookie season, even if it’s filled with tough love and teaching moments.

Read more NBA news on BleacherReport.com

View full post on Bleacher Report – NBA

Pistons beat 76ers behind 19 from Kyle Singler (Yahoo Sports)

DETROIT, MI - OCTOBER 23: Kyle Singler #25 of the Detroit Pistons prepares to shoot a free throw against the Philadelphia 76ers during the game on October 23, 2014 at the The Palace of Auburn Hills in Detroit, Michigan. (Photo by Allen Einstein/NBAE via Getty Images)

AUBURN HILLS, Mich. (AP) — Kyle Singler scored 19 points and Josh Smith added 17 points and 10 rebounds as the Detroit Pistons beat the Philadelphia 76ers 109-103 in an exhibition game Thursday night.


View full post on Yahoo Sports – NBA News

The 10 Best Moments from ‘Midnight Madness’ Celebrations Around the Country

The games themselves mark the true start of the 2014-15 college basketball season, but at this point we’ve gone long enough without hoops action that any glimpse of what’s in store is welcomed with open arms.

Midnight Madness definitely did the trick.

Since practices officially began Oct. 3, schools throughout the country have been holding events that are heavy on flair and light on actual basketball. Meant to hype up the fanbase for the season ahead, some schools go a little overboard trying to make their Midnight Madness celebrations stand out.

This leads to highlight-reel dunks, high jinks and hilarious getups, as you’ll see in our ranking of the best Midnight Madness moments.

Begin Slideshow

View full post on Bleacher Report – College Basketball

Clippers vs. Suns: Live Score and Highlights from 2014 NBA Preseason

The Suns led the Clippers 61-58 at the half.

 

Stay tuned to Bleacher Report for live updates and analysis throughout.

Read more NBA news on BleacherReport.com

View full post on Bleacher Report – NBA

« Previous PageNext Page »