LOS ANGELES – The video game world is so much easier for rookies.
“The toughest thing was trying to figure out my shot,’’ Bulls rook Doug McDermott said, when discussing playing as himself on NBA2K15. “They made the timing [on the shot] a little weird, but once you get it down it’s cool.’’
First-year forward Nikola Mirotic has had it a bit easier. He was on a European version of the 2K franchise last season, playing for Real Madrid.
“I knew what to expect,’’ Mirotic said. “But I still think I’m better in real life than they make me on the game.’’
Ah, “real life.’’
Unfortunately, that’s where it’s been an uphill battle for the two promising rookies.
Mirotic is coming off a game against the Clippers in which the stretch-four scored 12 points in 18 minutes of work. But before that outing, Mirotic had five-straight games in which he averaged 5.4 minutes, making very little impact.
As for McDermott, the first-round pick has played just under 10 minutes a game over his last five, but was shooting just 1-for-5 from the three-point line in that span, uncharacteristically missing several wide-open looks along the way.
“The thing with Niko is he’s playing behind three really good players,’’ coach Tom Thibodeau said of the growing pains seemingly engulfing his two rookies. “Right now, they’re a lot better than he is.
“But I’m very pleased with both of those guys. They just got to keep working. When they get in there, get the job done. I like them a lot, and they’re only going to get better and better as time goes on.’’
That’s not just a message Thibodeau was singing to the media. He’s been telling both McDermott and Mirotic that on a daily basis.
Even with McDermott missing open shots the last few games, the reinforcement is very simple.
“Great, that’s the way I want him to play,’’ Thibodeau said of McDermott’s shot selection. “When he’s open, I want him to shoot, it’s that simple. In practice he’s great. He’s still finding his way. He’s going to be terrific.
“I just think it’s going to take a little bit of time. The way he shoots the ball, even though he missed those shots, he shot them great. I have a lot of confidence in him. I just want him to keep shooting.’’
They’ll both likely have that chance against Sacramento. Derrick Rose (left hamstring) was able to practice on Wednesday, but was still 50-50 for the Kings. Pau Gasol (strained left calf) was held out of practice, and was questionable.
“I understand that [there are better players in front of me],’’ Mirotic said. “You know, it’s not easy to have all these players in my position, but the good thing is I am learning every day from them in the practice. I am fighting with them on the court [in practice]. They are my teammates and I have to learn from them, so I have to have patience.
“This is my first year, they have helped me, so I am not worried about minutes. The only think I need to think is if I play five minutes, I need to play those five minutes 100 percent, play them with confidence. I need to compete. If I play 15 minutes, the same thing. This is the only way I’m going to progress like an NBA player.’’
In real life, yes it is.