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Year three for Doug McDermott and confidence is still an issue

MEMPHIS, Tenn. — The weight of being the 11th overall pick in the 2014 draft is washing off of Doug McDermott.

“Yeah, it has slowly washed off of me,’’ McDermott said. “I’m working hard and trying to get better. That’s all I’m really worried about.’’

Much to the Bulls’ dismay, McDermott continues to have drastic ups and downs. In January, the good, the bad, and the ugly of McDermott’s game has been on full display.

He was excellent on Sunday against the Grizzlies. In the first half, he scored 22 points in 15:51 minutes, shooting 7-for-10, including 3-for-5 from three-point range. He finished with a career-high 31 points on 9-for-16 shooting from the floor and 10-for-11 from the line. He sank two clutch free throws in the closing seconds to ice the 108-104 road victory.

Before that, in back-to-back victories over the Cavaliers and the Raptors, McDermott scored 17 points in each, shooting 5-for-11 from three-point range. But in the four games after those strong efforts, McDermott was a combined 3-for-15 from beyond the arc, averaging 5.1 points. Coach Fred Hoiberg said that confidence in his shot has been a perplexing issue with the third-year player.

“We need to continue to try and get [McDermott] going,’’ Hoiberg said before Sunday’s game. “His teammates look for him in transition and they’re always trying to find him. They’re pumping him up. As a player, as a shooter, you’ve got to keep rising up with confidence. Even when things aren’t going great.’’

Asked whether McDermott, in his third year, even should be battling confidence problems, Hoiberg said that ups and downs are part of being a shooter in the NBA.

“It’s human nature as a shooter, when you’re struggling, you try to get as close to that rim as you can, and you try and guide it up there, as opposed to trusting that stroke and shooting it,’’ Hoiberg said. “It looks like he’s trying to seek contact a little bit, as opposed to going up without hesitation and shooting.

“The big thing for Doug is to trust it. We have a lot of confidence in Doug. Everyone in this organization does. He needs to continue to take them when they’re there. We need him to make shots. When he and Niko [Mirotic] are shooting the ball well, we generally play well.’’

Asked if he was concerned with the direction McDermott’s career path is headed, Hoiberg’s explanation was simpler.

“No,’’ the coach said with no hesitation. “I’m not.’’

On the mend

Hoiberg’s hope is to have Mirotic back for Tuesday’s game with the Mavericks, but it’s been small steps in his return from flu-like symptoms.

Mirotic was able to work out a bit at the Advocate Center on Sunday, Hoiberg said, but the team wants him to get his strength back, too. Like Jimmy Butler, Mirotic has lost some serious pounds during his illness.

Denzel Valentine was also slowed by the bug.

“A completely different strain,’’ Hoiberg said. “Niko, it sounds like he had some strep throat issues with his. Denzel did not. Denzel was more of a stomach issue. The biggest thing with Niko is we got to get his strength back and that might take a few days.’’

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Email: jcowley@suntimes.com