Bulls’ Doug McDermott has his day against Pacers

SHARE Bulls’ Doug McDermott has his day against Pacers
SHARE Bulls’ Doug McDermott has his day against Pacers

Nikola Mirotic’s beard is quite impressive.

Doug McDermott joked about it earlier in the season, knowing that his follicly challenged face could only dream of sporting such growth.

But what really stands out to McDermott about Mirotic has been his short-term memory on the court.

If Mirotic misses a defensive assignment, no problem. He turns the page and moves on. If he misses an open shot? Get it back next time.

It’s a freedom McDermott has been trying to grasp.

“I learned a lot from Niko and Tony [Snell’s] really good stretch [the last two weeks],’’ McDermott said. “You’re going to make mistakes out there. You’re not going to be perfect. [Coach Tom Thibodeau] doesn’t expect you to do everything right. For me, it’s huge having Niko to watch. He has turned around his game because he has that short-term memory.

“That’s something I need in my game, as well.’’

On Friday night in the Bulls’ 98-84 loss to the Indiana Pacers, McDermott, the 11th pick in the 2014 draft, finally seemed to be getting it.

In 16 minutes, the 6-8 small forward put up 17 shots and made eight for a career-high 16 points.

It was a breakout game for McDermott and the first time he reached double figures since Nov. 4, when he scored 12 against the Orlando Magic.

“Yeah, it was good to see the ball go in for him, and hopefully he can build on that,’’ Thibodeau said. “He did a really good job for us.’’

McDermott didn’t hear many compliments the first four months. His defense was a liability early on, then minor surgery on his right knee sidelined him for more than six weeks.

But McDermott slowly has been regaining his confidence in practice, and he finally displayed some of the aggressiveness that made him one of the elite scorers in college basketball at Creighton.

“And that’s what we want him to do,’’ Thibodeau said. “He moved well without the ball. We screened well for him, we searched him out, he got going, he made the game simple, and it was good.’’

Now, it’s about building on that.

“It just comes with experience and getting comfortable,’’ Mike Dunleavy said. “I mean he’s going to be a really, really good player. He’s got a big-time talent: his ability to score. That transfers from the college level to the NBA level.

“Having been around the league long enough, you know when guys can play and when they can’t. He just has a knack for scoring. He’s going to be able to do that at this level because he can shoot the ball and he moves better than people realize on both ends of the court. So it’s a matter of the ball going into the basket. That’s going to come.’’

That’s what McDermott is working for.

“It’s frustrating being a rookie in the NBA,’’ McDermott said. “I lean on guys like Joakim Noah. He texts me all the time if I have a bad day.

‘‘I have great leaders, Kirk Hinrich especially, just guys around me that understand me. I’m going to be fine with guys like this on my team.’’

Email: jcowley@suntimes.com

Twitter: @suntimes_hoops

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