Chicago Bulls: Kyle Korver
The 33-year-old Korver, who is on his fourth NBA team in 11 seasons, is coming off the best season of his career and is in the mix to make the Team USA roster for the FIBA World Cup later this month in Spain.
"It's so cool," said McDermott, a Chicago Bulls rookie and fellow Creighton alumnus. "I think it just shows how much work he's put in. Three or four years ago he was thinking about shutting it down. He kind of changed his body, changed the way he works, and here he is so it's really cool to see."
Korver, who set an NBA record last season by hitting a 3-pointer for a 127th straight game, appears to be enjoying his time on Team USA more than anyone. The Atlanta Hawks sharpshooter has put a lot of work into his game in recent years and he is at the point in his career when he can appreciate it more than ever.
"It's kind of cool that [this opportunity] kind of comes more towards the end," said Korver, who shot an NBA-best .472 from 3-point range last season. "This is my 12th year coming up and I've never really been a part of stuff like this so it's kind of special to me. I take it serious. I'm trying to do this thing. Not that I see this as the end; I'm going to keep trying to grow and get better, but it's kind of a cool thing that it happens more towards the end than at the beginning. I'm not like the young guy here who they see down the road they're going to throw him in the mix."
Korver speaks glowingly about McDermott and believes that his friend will end up being a very good pro in the NBA, but he knows that McDermott will have to make some adjustments during his time in Chicago.
There's a lot of things that McDermott must learn to deal with as he begins his first season in the NBA, but Korver -- along with many coaches and executives throughout the league -- believes that McDermott is up for the challenge.
That's why the Bulls spent so much time scouting him over the past few years. And that's why the organization ended up trading so many picks -- two firsts and three seconds by the time they unloaded Anthony Randolph to the Orlando Magic in a subsequent deal -- to get him. It was love at first sight for both McDermott and the Bulls.
A short drive to the Bulls' new downtown practice facility isn't the only nice change in McDermott's first job out of college. He also gets to play with one of the best point guards in the game in Derrick Rose. The former MVP and Team USA lock raved about McDermott, who was a member of the U.S. Select Team, during Team USA's training camp last week.
"He rarely messes up," Rose said of McDermott. "He never pushes the issue I would say. He never tries things that he can't do. He knows exactly what type of play that he wants and for me I need him because you can't leave him. He has a lot of confidence in his shot, and he works on his shot every day. So when he's open -- and I was playing with him when we were back in Chicago -- I had to tell him whenever he's open and I pass him the ball he better shoot or I'm going to yell at him every time."
McDermott isn't taking the opportunity to play with Rose for granted.
"It makes it a lot easier because he draws so much attention," McDermott said. "He's an unselfish guy to play with, and he's going to find you. He makes some really good decisions with the ball."
Most of all, McDermott can knock down shots. It's the trait the Bulls are banking on most as McDermott embarks on this new stage of his career. Korver is confident that McDermott's game will grow under Thibodeau, but the Bulls are hoping that "McBuckets" can live up to his nickname this season and help space the floor for Rose.
"We've had some great shooters in the past, but with him, I've never played with a young shooter," Rose said. "He'll be the youngest player and the youngest, best shooter I've ever played with so I can't wait to play with him. He seems like he takes the game very serious [for] a young player. He knows the game and his father [grew] him into a basketball player."
McDermott played for his father, Greg, while at Creighton and won national player of the year in 2014 as a senior. His basketball acumen and ability to live up to expectations is something that those around him take pride in.
"He takes the game very serious," Korver said. "He plays with a chip on his shoulder. He plays with an edge. He wants to be really good. And he's going to work for it. He doesn't just want it. He wants to work for it. He's got a great skill set, obviously, in how he can shoot and how he sees the floor.
"He dealt with every kind of defense [in college]. He's been prepared for the NBA in so many ways. Just in how he was guarded all the time, the pressure that was on him in Omaha at Creighton. He's a younger guy, but emotionally he's very mature."
That sounds a lot like a guy who will be able to deal with the constant pressure of playing for Thibodeau, who hasn't shown a willingness to play rookies right away. But McDermott looks to be the guy who should be able to buck that trend this season.
Thibodeau, who also serves as an assistant on Team USA's staff, liked what he saw from McDermott in camp.
"Last year he had a chance to get involved with [USA Basketball] and I thought that was great for him," Thibodeau said. "And he's getting more experience this year. He played well in the summer league and this is a different level of competition so it's another opportunity for him to improve. I think any time he can do that it's all a plus."
McDermott knows he will take advantage of the experience, as well.
"It's been great just going against some of the best guys in the world," he said. "It's definitely a challenge, but it can only help a guy like me who's getting his NBA career started."
His friendship with Korver will also help. McDermott knows that he'll be able to bounce things off the 33-year-old veteran as he deals with the ups and downs that come during every player's rookie year.
As the hype surrounding McDermott's impact increases after a solid performance in the summer league, Korver wants to make one thing clear: McDermott isn't the new Korver for the Bulls. He's his own player.
"There's easy comparisons to make, right?" Korver said. "We got a similar skill set although he's got some post game that I don't have. We come from the same school. We're about the same size, all that. It's easy to say that. But he's his own person and he's got his own things to his game that I don't have and he's going to do a great job for you guys. He's really excited to be there. He's going to learn so much from Thibs. It's so great."
The Chicago Bulls star must prove to himself -- and the rest of the basketball world -- that his body can withstand the grind of a long NBA season. He knows that plenty of people are doubting whether this can happen, but he is ready to embark on the long journey because he is confident he can't do any more to prepare his body for what is to come.
Rose understands that after missing most of the past three seasons, and playing in just 10 games in the past two seasons, he is going to have some tough days. His teammates and coaches have raved about his performance during the first two days of Team USA camp, but the 25-year-old Rose knows that every day will be different. That's the reason why he's trying to stay even-keeled about the expectations surrounding him.
"But getting through them down days, that's what going to make me a stronger player I think," he said. "I can't be down on it, just like (Monday). Yesterday is yesterday and today is in the past now, too. I got to look forward to what we got going on tonight, I got to get acupuncture, I got to get a massage. (Wednesday) I've got a practice and it starts all over again."
Every step Rose takes on the floor this week in Las Vegas is being watched carefully by Bulls personnel. Bulls' Director of Sports Performance Jen Swanson is in town to work with Rose. Bulls executive VP John Paxson was on hand Monday to check on Rose during Team USA's first practice. Bulls head coach Tom Thibodeau, who also serves as an assistant coach for Team USA, is constantly checking on his star player during practices to make sure he's feeling OK.
The Bulls are doing everything they can to protect Rose from another injury which makes the physical and mental preparation beforehand even more important. But even Rose acknowledged that when those rough days eventually come, it likely will be because of something that he's dealing with physically instead of what he accomplishes on the floor.
"I think I'd fit in great," McDermott said. "I feel like they always have a good group of guys. And, obviously with Derrick Rose returning he draws a lot of attention, so I feel like my outside shooting could really help them, and I feel like I'm a much better defender than people give me credit [for]. I think I can really understand the team concept of defense, and I think [Chicago's] a place where I could fit in."
McDermott, who is represented by Chicago-based agent Mark Bartelstein, has been training in Chicago while he gets ready for the June 26 draft. He already has a comfort level with the Bulls front office.
"I went to a Bulls game against the Wizards, so I'm really familiar with them," he said. "I'm pretty familiar with their front office. They're a bunch of guys from Iowa -- they all went to Iowa State it seems like. I got a chance to talk to them, and I really like them."
McDermott said he seeks advice from former Creighton star Kyle Korver as he gets ready for the draft. Korver, who played for the Bulls from 2010-2012, is among a group of trusted confidants off whom McDermott bounces ideas -- and he raved about his time in Chicago.
"He loved it," McDermott said. "He loved it. He didn't want to leave. He had a great time here; he liked Coach Thibodeau and all his teammates, Joakim Noah. So he's a great resource to have when talking about teams."
Stop Bird comparisons: McDermott drew a laugh from the assembled media Thursday when asked if he had heard people comparing him to Hall of Famer Larry Bird.
"I've heard it, but they're crazy," he said. "Because there's not another Larry Bird, I don't think, in my mind. If I could do half of what Larry accomplished, I'd be just fine. It's pretty cool just to be mentioned in the same sentence as him, but there's not going to be another Larry Bird."
The comparisons between the two players grew louder in recent months after McDermott, who won several national player of the year awards for the 2013-14 season, appeared on a Sports Illustrated cover in the same pose with two cheerleaders that Bird made famous while he was at Indiana State. Despite trying to back away from the comparisons, McDermott admitted he still watches tape of Bird before every game he plays.
"I watch Larry Bird highlights before every game," he said. "That was kind of my routine. I wasn't old enough to really watch him growing up, but my dad was, my grandpa was. So I know a lot about Larry just growing up, studying his game."
The last word: Duke prospect Rodney Hood said he was scheduled to meet Friday with the Bulls. As with McDermott, he believes he could fit in right away.
"Most definitely," Hood said. "Especially with Derrick coming back, being able to push the ball and find shooters, I think that's something they lacked this year and I can come in right away and knock down shots for them."
Korver's first two seasons with the Bulls also coincided with Thibodeau's first two seasons in Chicago. The Bulls led the league in regular-season wins and left an indelible mark on the popular Atlanta Hawks sharpshooter.
"I have so much respect for the core of the Chicago Bulls the last few years," Korver said after the Bulls beat the Hawks on Saturday night. "Just the way they approach practice, the way they approach games, the way they approach details, the way they play every day. When you've been a part of that, like the blood, sweat and tears, for a couple years, it kind of carves a spot in your heart a little bit. Obviously, Chicago is an incredible city to play basketball in. The Bulls uniform, there's so much history to it. So I really appreciated my two years here. I'm glad to be a Hawk, I'm excited about where we're headed. But for sure there was a good couple years here. Fun."
"Well, I don't like to give up three-pointers to anyone," Thibodeau said after Friday's practice. "So that's the way we're going to approach it."
"We know (three-point shooting) is one of their strengths as a team," Thibodeau said. "It's one of his strengths. So obviously, you've got to get back, get set, keep the ball out of the paint, protect your basket. It requires you to make multiple efforts. You've got to get out to his shot, you've got to have the ability to run him off his shot. And then you have to do that without being undisciplined where you're just giving wide open shots to other people. So it requires you to be very disciplined and to have an awareness of where he is at all times. And he moves great without the ball -- if you turn your head on him he knows how to find an open area. (He's) very clever."
On a personal level, the Bulls are happy to see Korver having so much success in Atlanta. Few within the organization wanted to see him leave a couple summers ago when he was traded to Atlanta so that the Bulls wouldn't go deeper into the luxury tax.
"It's incredible what he's done," Thibodeau said. "I think it's a testament to the way he works, his professionalism, the way he prepares for each game, the way he takes care of himself. It's incredible because you know what he's doing, you prepare for it, and he still finds different ways to (make the shot), and he doesn't take bad ones. He takes good shots, he shoots when he's open, he passes when he's guarded. It's the mark of a winning player."
Injury update: Carlos Boozer did not practice on Friday because of a sore knee. Thibodeau isn't sure whether the veteran power forward will play Saturday. Taj Gibson (wrist) went through most of practice but Thibodeau said he was "fine." Thibodeau also said Luol Deng (Achilles) was fine.
The last word: Thibodeau, on having everyone back aside from Derrick Rose, and trying to get into a rhythm: "That's the important thing. To keep putting the work in that's necessary to win. I think we're moving in the right direction. I think we've improved in a lot of areas, we know we've got a long way to go. There are a number of things that we have to do better. And we just have to continue to take it step by step. I think you can't start looking down the road, you can't look behind at what may have been missed. You've just got to concentrate on your improvement, exactly where you are right now, and move forward from there. And I think now that we have everyone, it allows you to get into a better rhythm both offensively and defensively."
Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau couldn’t help but reminisce, for he coached the player who previously held the record, Dana Barros, when Thibs was an assistant with the Philadelphia 76ers in the 1994-95 season.
"You're happy for [Korver] because of the type of person that he is, the way he's worked at his career. It's not an accident; this guy, he puts a great amount of time into not only shooting, but to preparing himself to play in each and every game.
"He knows how to find openings. And he does everything. Everyone says he's not a great athlete; he's got great quickness because of his knowledge. And it doesn't take him long to get his shot off. So I'm happy for him."
Mike Dunleavy, the player who was brought in to fill the role that Korver had before he was dealt to the Hawks, agreed.
"It's pretty impressive," Dunleavy said. "To be able to pull that off, just to be able to shoot a 3 in every game, let alone make one, that's pretty incredible. There have been a lot of great shooters that come through this league and to make it 90 games.
"I'm sure he'll get to 100, that's quite an accomplishment."
Thibodeau credited Korver’s preparation.
"He's going to analyze how he gets to his shots," he said. "He does everything real hard.
"He uses the back pick to free himself up to get the body off on where he can get his shot off quickly. And if you turn your head at all he's going to sprint to an open area. "
What's next: The Bulls have a day of practice before facing off against the Milwaukee Bucks at home on Tuesday night.
Dealing with more injuries: Luol Deng (Achilles injury) is the latest Bull to sit out hurt, but Thibodeau keeps preaching to his team that it can overcome any obstacle in its path.
"I think mentally we're kind of prepared for it at this point," Dunleavy said. "In terms of rearranging the lineups and guys having to play different positions and things like that, yeah, that's an adjustment. But we're professionals. That's the way it is. You get paid to do that. We come out every night and compete.
"We have to regroup, get better and come back Tuesday."
The Bulls' core, led by a presumably healthy Derrick Rose, will be largely intact barring a major trade this summer. The same cannot be said about the bench. With that in mind, let's take a quick look at the Bulls roster and see who will likely be returning next year. And decide for yourself with our Take Him or Trash Him.
Derrick Rose: After sitting out the entire season as he recovers from a torn ACL, the 24-year-old superstar will have a lot of pressure on him to produce. As long as he is mentally ready to go, he should be fine. He's also the only untouchable on this roster.
Joakim Noah: The emotional big man enters into the third year of his $60 million contract. He played at an All-Star level this year but he knows he must find a way to get his foot problems in order.
And when it is ...
Read the entire column.
Korver made his first visit to the United Center Monday since being traded by the Chicago Bulls to Atlanta over the summer and may have given Thibodeau his biggest compliment to date after being asked how Thibodeau's preparations compares others’ around the league.
"I think the grass is always greener on the other side," Korver said. "Sometimes you're like, 'Man, we've got to do closeouts again? It's Cleveland, it's 20 degrees in this arena, we're at shootaround ...' You can't argue with the final result. You just can't. Thibs is a great coach, man. He's a very demanding coach. He couldn't coach every team because a lot of guys can't take it. But they have a group in that locker room who can and that's what makes them special. And they keep on finding guys who will and I'm sure that they'll continue to do that. But if you get guys who will buy in, you're going to have a great defense, you're going to grind every night and that gets you far in this league."
ATLANTA -- Let's take a quick look at how the Atlanta Hawks cruised to an easy 92-75 win over the Chicago Bulls on Saturday night at Phillips Arena.
How it happened: Al Horford led the Hawks with 20 points and 10 rebounds. Lou Williams added 16 points, and Kyle Korver chipped in with 13 points against his former team. Luol Deng had 11 points for the Bulls, while Joakim Noah added 10 points and nine rebounds. Noah turned the ball over six times, though.
What it means: The Bulls got absolutely hammered in this one. For as well as they played in the first three quarters Friday night against the New York Knicks at Madison Square Garden, that's how badly they played in the first three of this game. Tom Thibodeau's team looked lifeless most of the night and could not find any rhythm offensively. What has to concern Thibodeau most is that his team gave up 45 points in the fourth quarter of Friday night's game and continued to play without any focus in this one. The Bulls got outworked by the Hawks and never really got up off the mat after being knocked down early -- something that is not often said about a Thibodeau-coached team.
Hits: About the only positive moment in the night for the Bulls came in the third quarter when rookie Marquis Teague checked in to face his brother, Hawks guard Jeff.
Misses: After playing so well on Friday night, Kirk Hinrich went just 3-for-11 from the field and got dunked on badly by Lou Williams in the first half.
Stat of the night: The Hawks outscored the Bulls 61-33 in the second and third quarters combined.
What's next: The Bulls take on the Houston Rockets on Christmas night.
He doesn't miss the veteran coach's practices at all, but he does heap praise on Thibodeau for the way he led the Chicago Bulls over the past two seasons. Korver & Co. knew they were part of something special under Thibodeau.
"Practices here are quite a bit easier," Korver said before Saturday night's game. "Shootarounds are quite a bit easier. Thibs is a good coach. You are so prepared. And I think he probably walks the line of what's the right amount and what's too much, and he's right on that line all the time so it can definitely wear on guys.
“But at the same time you have a great game plan going into every single game, and I think as a player you can appreciate that."
CHICAGO -- Gar Forman sat at the podium after the Bulls drafted Marquis Teague late in June and uttered a statement has already started to haunt him amongst fans. Forman, one half of Chicago’s basketball brain-trust, stated the team would be making "basketball decisions, not financial ones," as it pertained to free agency this summer.
Given the organization's recent decisions and its lack of enthusiasm regarding going deep into the luxury tax, Forman's statement falls flat for fans.
The truth is that pretty much every decision the Bulls have made this summer, and the decisions they'll make in the coming weeks, all are financially based. It's the way of life when you're running a business, and make no mistake, the Chicago Bulls are just that.
Jerry Reinsdorf has made a ton of money while owning the Bulls. The United Center is filled every night and the Bulls are one of the profitable, and recognizable franchises in the world. That's the issue with a large portion of the fan base right now. Reinsdorf has more than enough money to cover any luxury tax hit, but the organization has clearly made it a point to make financial decisions, not basketball ones in the past few weeks. Recently traded guard Kyle Korver admitted as much after he was dealt.
"What do you do?" Korver said last week on ESPN 1000. "You learn this is a business and teams are going to make business decisions and that's all right ... I knew it was going to come down to dollars. I'm not really going to take it personally because I don't think (the trade) is because of my play, so they traded me or something like that, I think it was a dollars decision and I understand that."
Former Bulls guard C.J. Watson echoed that sentiment in recent weeks. He acknowledged that much of his talks between the Bulls’ front office revolved around the luxury tax. Couple this with the fact that NBA capologist Larry Coon said on Wednesday night on ESPN 1000 that he has been hearing that the Bulls don't want to go into the tax at all.