LAS VEGAS — Optimism, meet scrutiny.
In Doug McDermott’s case, it hasn’t taken very long.
Last summer at this time, the Bulls’ 2014 first-round pick was the darling of the Summer League, knocking down shot after shot on his way to earning All-NBA Summer League first-team honors.
This year, McDermott is in the evaluation crosshairs after a slow start to his NBA career, with the growing sentiment that he wasn’t worth the 11th pick last year.
New Bulls coach Fred Hoiberg wants to make sure McDermott doesn’t fall into a hole of doubt.
‘‘It is a big year for Doug,’’ Hoiberg said Sunday. ‘‘I’ve got a lot of confidence in Doug, and I’ve been trying to portray that to him and get him to go out and play with confidence. That’s what it’s all about. I mean, he’s obviously very gifted in scoring the basketball with what he did on college. Watching early games last year, I thought he played well early in the season, and then had the unfortunate knee injury, obviously. You know the big thing right now with Doug is getting that confidence back.’’
In his Summer League debut Saturday, McDermott played like a guy with a year of NBA experience under his belt, scoring 20 points on 9-for-16 shooting in an 84-71 win over the Minnesota Timberwolves. The follow-up was far less impressive, as McDermott went scoreless in the first half of Sunday’s 81-66 loss to the Toronto Raptors. He didn’t score until a scoop shot at 5:28 in the third quarter.
He finished with 11 points, but it came on 5-for-13 shooting, including 0-for-4 from beyond the three-point line.
‘‘I’m not going to lose that confidence because I believe in myself and believe in my game,’’ McDermott said after his latest showing. ‘‘There’s going to be nights where I don’t shoot it well, don’t play great. But that’s part of the game. I’m going to work extremely hard to get through it.’’
Easily said, but now he has to show himself more consistently.
‘‘It all comes with just work ethic and having a guy like Coach Hoiberg and the rest of the staff to work with,’’ McDermott said of that process.
McDermott’s rookie year has been well documented: solid start, knee surgery, then no playing time when he returned for a team looking to make a deep playoff run. That’s why this year is so important, as the Bulls try to remind McDermott why he was selected so high.
‘‘For Doug right now, it’s just about getting him back in that mode of being a basketball player,’’ Hoiberg said. ‘‘I keep going back to the word ‘confidence,’ but that’s what it’s all about for him.’’