Doug McDermott out to prove he’s more complete than you think

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NEW YORK – When you’re given the nickname Dougie McBuckets, it’s no secret that your specialty is putting the basketball where its intended destination is, even if your NBA team changes within a 10 minute time span.

Doug McDermott wound up in potentially the best possible spot for him thanks to the Chicago Bulls, who gave up their two first round picks (16 and 19) to Denver for McDermott after selecting him with the 11th overall pick. The Bulls needed to find someone who could come in and score right away to take some of the burden off of a returning Derrick Rose.

During his senior year campaign at Creighton, McDermott led the nation in scoring (26.7 ppg) and did it in a variety of ways. He made 57 percent of his two point shots, 45 percent of his three point shots (while taking six per game) and made 86 percent of his free throws. This wasn’t just a one year explosion; McDermott’s scoring average went up during each of his four years in college. Wait college basketball players are actually allowed to go to school for four years and graduate with a degree!?

It was apparent during his final two seasons that he had a skill that could transfer over to the NBA, but the biggest question mark around McDermott is his ability to improve the rest of his game, especially his defense, into an acceptable level in the NBA. McBuckets knows what has to be done.

“Defensively I have to get a lot better and be able to prove that I can guard some of those positions that’s the main thing,” he said on Wednesday during the pre-draft media availability. “I know I can score, I know I can shoot, I know I can move without the ball, but you know the main thing is on the defensive end.”

He’s worked on more than just his defense and it sounds as though McDermott has been working on improving every aspect of his offensive game since his college career wrapped up, but perhaps nothing more so than his ability to control his own offense.

“Ball handling a lot just because there is a lot of space in the NBA and the more you can create for yourself, the more successful you’re going to be.”

McDermott also understands that the transition into the NBA isn’t just going to be about evolving his physical abilities, changing his mental approach to life as a member of the NBA is just as important.

“You know it’s different, I’ve been in college for four years, so all of a sudden I’m going to have all of this free time, so I’m going to be in the gym a lot more than I was. Obviously I’m going to be getting paid money to do it now, so it’s a job,” McDermott said. “You gotta take it real serious because there are a lot of good players in this world that can come up at the next level and take your job at some point.”

But what job would a player be taking? McDermott’s skill set lends itself perfectly to that of a small-ball four, which would likely be his calling card if he were two inches taller (he’s currently listed at 6’8”). If he plays the three, he’s going to have to guard the likes of LeBron James, Kevin Durant, Paul George and Carmelo Anthony.

So what position does McDermott think he’ll be at the next level?

“A three, I think I’ll play the three at the next level. In college I played the four for the most part just because we were pretty small, but we switched one through four sometimes one through five, so I’ve guarded a lot of wings during my four years,” he said.

Could he be a small-ball four?

“I think so. I think you’ve seen more stretch fours who aren’t quite as tall, so you know I think I could help there. Certainly once I am established in the league and maybe put on some more weight and bulk I could potentially guard fours too.”

The toughest transition for Dougie McBuckets is going to be bursting through the sticker that says “Hello, I’m a shooter and I can’t do anything else”. It’s a label that has doomed many before McDermott (HI JIMMER!), but it’s also one that he recognizes. It’s something that has driven him during the time between the end of his college career and the draft.

“A lot of people label me as just a spot up shooter, but I think that I’m a lot more than that. I feel like I can put the ball on the floor and come off of screens really well, so I’ve been working on that a lot.”

Welcome to the windy city Mr. McBuckets.

Twitter: @Scottdargis 

Gregg Popovich will not coach Game 4 following death of his wife, Erin

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San Antonio Spurs coach Gregg Popovich will not be on the sidelines again for Game 4 Sunday following the death of his wife, Erin, to a lengthy illness.

Ettore Messina will again coach the Spurs.

Popovich also missed Game 3. His San Antonio Spurs are down 3-0 to the Golden State Warriors in the first-round matchup. None of that matters compared to the loss of a woman he loved and was married to for four decades.

Erin Popovich’s passing has cast a pall over the series, especially with Warriors coach Steve Kerr being very close to the Popovichs dating back to his playing days with the Spurs.

The reaction and sadness about Erin’s passing has reached well beyond this series.

Our thoughts are with the Popovich family in this difficult time.

Anthony Davis’ 47 points, Pelicans sweep Trail Blazers out of playoffs

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NEW ORLEANS (AP) — Anthony Davis scored 33 of his franchise playoff-record 47 points in the second half, and the New Orleans Pelicans completed a first-round playoff sweep of the Portland Trail Blazers with a 131-123 victory on Saturday.

Jrue Holiday capped his 41-point performance with an 18-foot pull-up jumper that gave the Pelicans a six-point lead with 40 seconds left.

Rajon Rondo added 16 assists, and Davis also had 11 rebounds and three blocks for New Orleans, which is moving on to the second round of the playoffs for only the second time since the NBA returned to the city 16 seasons ago.

C.J. McCollum scored 38 for the Trail Blazers, who responded to a blowout loss in Game 3 by keeping Game 4 close until the final minute. Al-Farouq Aminu scored 27, Damian Lillard added 18 points and Jusuf Nurkic had 18 points and 11 rebounds before fouling out.

Lillard’s difficult driving layup had just tied the game at 60 when the Pelicans briefly pulled away, going on an 11-2 run capped by Davis’ 3.

Soon after, Nikola Mirotic added step-back 3. Davis, who scored 19 in the third quarter, then added a layup while falling down after a hard foul by Aminu, after which Davis flexed both biceps while still sitting on the court.

Holiday’s transition 3 made it 87-72, prompting Portland to call timeout while Holiday walked slowly toward mid-court, nodding and smiling wide as he soaked in the crowd’s adulation.

New Orleans led by 13 to start the fourth quarter, but Portland refused to wilt, opening the period on a 15-4 run that included Nurkic’s hook shot, 20-foot jumper and dunk. McCollum’s transition layup made it 104-102 with nearly nine minutes to play.

Portland got as close as a single point on Aminu’s layup with 5:08 to go, but Davis responded with 12 points over the final 4:56, starting with a layup as he was fouled and a 3-pointer. Holiday scored six points during the final 2:52, starting with his 3-pointer. The pair combined for all but one of New Orleans’ points during that pivotal stretch.

Leading up to Game 4, Lillard spoke of the need for the Blazers to ramp up their intensity and physicality. From the tip, it looked as though they’d done so.

In stark contrast to Game 3, when New Orleans led by 18 in the first quarter, this game was tight and testy.

Anthony and Ed Davis received double technical fouls after bumping one another following one of Anthony Davis’ dunks – and that was just the beginning.

McCollum was called for a flagrant foul when he stormed into the lane behind E'Twaun Moore and grabbed the Pelicans guard by the shoulders to thwart a driving layup attempt. Moore then shoved McCollum and was assessed a technical foul.

And in the final seconds of the half, double technicals were assessed to Rondo and Portland center Zach Collins after Rondo lowered his forehead into Collins’ chest and Collins shoved back.

When halftime arrived, New Orleans led 58-56.

 

 

Twins Marcus, Markieff Morris each fined by league for separate instances

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Twins Marcus and Markieff Morris have a special bond, one that includes doing so much together on the basketball court — playing at the same high school, the same AAU team, then going to college together at Kansas, and even playing together in the NBA for a while together with the Suns (they are now on separate teams).

That includes them both getting fined Saturday by the NBA for recent actions during the playoffs.

Washington’s Markieff Morris picked up a $25,000 fine for “attempting to escalate an altercation and pushing a game official,” the league announced. Here is the play in question, just minutes into Game 3.

Toronto’s OG Anunoby draws a foul knocking Morris to the ground, but Morris starts the incident with an elbow to Anunoby’s back, and he does push referee Kenny Mauer. Considering all that, a $25,000 fine is not that severe.

His twin Marcus Morris picked up a $15,000 for “public criticism of the officiating,” which he certainly did following the Celtics’ Game 3 loss to the Bucks. Here are his comments, and they are NSFW.

That $15,000 fine is pretty much the going rate for ripping the referees after the game.

Markieff outdid his brother on this one… if you consider getting the larger fine the “win.”

As expected, likely top-three pick Luka Doncic files to enter NBA draft

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Luka Doncic — the 6’8″ point forward who is putting up impressive numbers against men at the highest levels of European basketball — is bringing is game to the NBA. As expected.

Shams Charania of The Vertical at Yahoo Sports said the expected is now official.

Doncic, 19, submitted draft paperwork this week to formally enter his name, league sources said. Doncic is arguably the most decorated European player to make a jump to the NBA, a wunderkind who’s been playing in the EuroLeague since 2015. He is currently leading Real Madrid in the EuroLeague playoffs, averaging 14.9 points, 4.7 rebounds and 4.4 assists this season.

The 6-foot-7 Doncic has the ability to play multiple positions, from being a primary ball-handler to shooting and playmaking off the ball. His season in Europe could continue into late May or June. NBA executives have long been intrigued by Doncic’s potential stardom, and several are continuing to make scouting trips for him.

Doncic is expected to go in the top three (likely the top two) come this June’s draft.

If you’re about to bring up Darko Milicic or some other European bust, just stop. This Slovenian has proven he can play — in 54 games this season between Liga ACB (Spain’s league, second best in the NBA) and the Euroleague, Doncic is averaging 14.8 points, 5.1 rebounds and 4.6 assists a game. He has shown a gift for passing that should blossom in the more open play of the NBA, plus he just knows how to run a team and make plays. He can score when called upon and has three-point range, can shoot off the bounce, and if you switch a smaller guy onto him, Doncic can just post him up.

He’s not going to be a bust.

However, what his ceiling is remains the debate. He’s not an elite athlete by NBA standards who has struggled at points for Real Madrid when guarded by borderline-NBA level Americans in Europe. Can he defend at the NBA level? Can he be consistent with his jumper? He may be elite, but it’s no given.

He’s going to be good, and his floor is higher than a lot of the other top prospects in this draft class. However, if a GM thinks that Marvin Bagley III or Mohamed Bamba both have a higher ceiling and can reach it, they may go with the Americans. Doncic is going to put some GMs in an interesting position.