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David Aldridge

Derek Fisher
Derek Fisher had command of the Knicks' huddle in Summer League early and often.

Fisher aims to teach Knicks -- and, yes, 'Melo -- the triangle


Posted Jul 21, 2014 11:18 AM - Updated Jul 22, 2014 9:38 AM

LAS VEGAS -- The new coach of the New York Knicks took a spray bottle, right there on the sideline -- while the action was taking place at the other end of the court -- squirted down a sweat spot and wiped it dry with a towel.

Derek Fisher is determined that things be done the right way.

For the last two weeks, Fisher has been putting into practice what he's basically been doing the last five or six seasons of his playing career -- teaching younger teammates the finer points of basketball. Here, he got to see how his youngest players and prospects picked up the triangle offense. It has been Fisher's home away from home for much of his time with the Lakers and Phil Jackson, his new boss and Knicks president.

The franchise's bigger news last week, of course, came when Carmelo Anthony decided to return to the Knicks, spurning the Bulls and Lakers, all for the low, low price of $124 million. Anthony's return ensures that Fisher will be able to field a competitive unit in his rookie coaching campaign, though whether the Knicks will be a playoff-caliber team is still in question.

Jackson has some of the usual suspects on Fisher's bench, including lead assistant Kurt Rambis and Rasheed Hazzard, a scout during Jackson's last run as coach of the L.A. Lakers and former assistant for the Lakers' NBA Development League team, the D-Fenders. (New York, quite slyly and astutely, also brought assistant coach Brian Keefe from Oklahoma City to New York. Keefe is not only an up-and-comer in his own right. He just happens to be the guy Kevin Durant knew longest, and trusted most, on OKC's staff. Just sayin'.)

With a talent like Anthony, Fisher at least has the luxury of having a go-to player if the shot clock runs down and the offense hasn't produced a quality shot. But no one knows if 'Melo will take to the triangle, any more than Jackson knew if Michael Jordan would when Jackson became coach of the Chicago Bulls in 1991.

Ultimately, Jordan and Scottie Pippen, like Kobe Bryant a decade later, understood the intricacies of the offense, and were able to meld their talents and off-the-charts basketball IQs to it. And Fisher thinks Anthony can do the same, operating out of the pinch post the way Jordan, Pippen and Bryant did.

"Oh, yeah. I've imagined it quite a bit," Fisher said last week during the Samsung Summer League. "It's an area where he likes to operate, even before now, being able to play in this system. But it will be important that we don't just put him there and watch him play, which is easy to do with great players.

"I hope we'll have things going on around him, wherever he catches the basketball, that will let him make his play, but will also allow him to make plays for his teammates, which will make the game easier for him. But also raise the level of his teammates around him. And in that way, everyone is really just in a place of confidence and trust with each other."

Learning the triangle often means unlearning habits that have been built during a lifetime of playing the game. Most great players get the ball 20 to 30 times during a game with one goal in mind: to score. Regardless of how they get it -- through screen and rolls, or direct posts -- they are expected to try to score.

The triangle, though, isn't nuclear medicine. It uses some elements of the Princeton offense that the Kings ran with Chris Webber and Vlade Divac, and has similarities with the version of the flex offense that Jerry Sloan ran for two decades in Utah with John Stockton and Karl Malone.

"Thirty teams run something out of the triple post. So it can't be that complicated," said Jim Cleamons, the longtime coach who assisted Jackson in Chicago and Los Angeles.

"The first thing is that you've got to have players that want to be coached and taught, play a team game rather than a me game. You have to have people that want to play basketball as a team rather than as individuals. If you don't have that, you're not going to have ball movement, you're not going to have player movement. You look at the old Boston Celtics, any team that has dominated in this league, there are certain principles. And ball movement and player movement are right at the top of the list."

The triangle discourages one-on-one basketball in favor of more egalitarian play (at least in theory; the offense's critics often point out it hasn't worked so well in the NBA when it hasn't had a first-ballot Hall of Famer like Jordan or Bryant as its focal point). But if the offense is working, anyone can score out of it; Dennis Rodman was one of the most consistent options when he played with the Bulls and helped them to their second three-peat.

For a young point guard like Shane Larkin, who's used to defaulting into screen-and-roll action with a big when the shot clock is winding down (instead of moving the ball and cutting through), the triangle is such a different animal. You must learn quickly that it's not your pass, but the next one, that might lead to a basket.

"That just comes with, if you're going to learn the offense, you have to sit down in a room, watch a lot, lot of film, be on it 24/7, and that's what we're all trying to do, just learn it," said second-year guard Tim Hardaway, Jr. "We're always talking about it when we're on the court, when we're having dinner, whatever the case may be. It's good to have guys like that talking about it on the court."

That might be one reason Shannon Brown was on New York's Summer League team.

Brown won two rings playing the triangle in Los Angeles. He was 23 when he was traded to the Lakers in 2009. Before that, he spent his first NBA three seasons bouncing from Cleveland to Chicago to Charlotte.

"It was tough," said Brown, who's hoping to show the Knicks -- or anyone else -- that he can still play at 28.

"I wanted to make sure I was doing everything the correct way," Brown said. "Once I learned, like, the little intricate details, like you can't make a bad pass or whatever the case is, that's when it started to come together for me. It was more of a flow out there with my teammates, knowing where they liked the ball, their tendencies, and where I needed to go."

Fisher says that he's not nervous about establishing and building a relationship with Anthony. During the Knicks' re-recruitment of Anthony, the two were in frequent communication.

Fisher is trying to put his stamp on the team in ways great and small. He's already had discussions with Jackson and the team's senior management about upgrades at the team's Westchester practice facility. It's not likely the team will build a new one any time soon, but the one they have can be spruced up. The practice court has become a valuable tool in recruiting potential free agents, and part of the promise the Knicks made to Anthony is that they'd be free-agent players in 2015.

As Jackson had to convince Jordan, Fisher will have to convince Anthony that sticking with the triangle and trusting his teammates will ultimately make the game easier for him. That process of building trust and chemistry was always a work in progress with Jordan, who often fought the constraints the offense put on his one-on-one game.

But Jordan had achieved more success to that point in his pro career than Anthony has. Jordan's Bulls had made three straight conference finals, losing each time to Detroit; Anthony has only been once, with the Nuggets in 2009. And Jordan had already won two of his five MVPs.

"'Melo can definitely do it," Hardaway, Jr., said. "He showed it a lot in the season, believe it or not. When we was double-teamed, when he was trapped, he was always finding that open guy. It was very rare for him to shoot through three or four guys. He'll succeed through this offense. Everybody has to trust in it, not only one person, but everybody has to."

Bryant was a quicker convert than Jordan, even though he was much younger than Jordan had been when Jackson became his head coach.

"Kobe was a rare person, from the standpoint of, I think he had watched so much NBA film, and had studied so much about Michael Jordan," Fisher said. "He knew a lot about the system even before we were running it. When Phil brought the system to Los Angeles, I think he was a step ahead of a lot of us. But he was willing to buy into it because of the success that had been had previously."

Fisher, Brown said, was one of the few peers that could tell Bryant when he took a bad shot and actually have Bryant change his actions.

"Guys that could talk to Kobe straight were guys he respected," Brown said, "guys that went out there and gave it everything they had on both ends of the court. D-Fish was definitely one of those guys. He had been in the triangle offense as long as Kobe. They got the same amount of championships and stuff like that. They've been out there together. And I think they might have come into the league and on the same team at the same time. [Indeed, both were first-round picks in the celebrated 1996 Draft.]"

Hardaway has watched some of the games his father, Tim, Sr., played against the Bulls back in the day -- "That's what the YouTube is for," Hardaway, Jr., said -- and Brown told him it would take a couple of months to pick things up. Really, though, it takes most of a player's first year to get up to speed.

"If one thing isn't open, there's always a counter to it," Hardaway said. "It's a lot of options, with one pass, two passes, three passes. You just have to work with what the defense gives you."

Said Cleamons: "If you just choose to run 'plays,' you can choke those plays off. But if you run a system, if you take an option away, there's another option. It's perpetual. Give good defense credit where credit is due. But it's very difficult to shut down a system, where it's not difficult to shut down individual plays."

Still, the Knicks have many question marks. There's uncertainty in the paint, where Samuel Dalembert is the current penciled-in starter, with Cole Aldrich and newly signed Jason Smith as backups. There's youth in the backcourt. (Jackson told reporters last week that he'll have to pare one or more guards from the roster before camp to help keep the Knicks from more luxury tax hell).

Veteran guards like Calderon and Pablo Prigioni can help, but the triangle doesn't value ballhandling from its guards as much as shooting. That's where players like Hardaway and Iman Shumpert will have to consistently prove themselves.

Yet, if the offense is to work, all of them will have to contribute, to give Anthony reason to trust them, just as Jordan had to ultimately trust John Paxson in the 1991 Finals and Steve Kerr in the 1997 Finals.

That worked started last week in Vegas. There is so much more that will have to be done for the Knicks to get back into the discussion in the Eastern Conference.

"We don't question our teammates' ability to play the game, because we trust the work we put in," Fisher said. "We'll put out the type of fruitful results that we've been working towards."

NOBODY ASKED ME, BUT ...

What if Donald or Shelly Sterling is still in charge of the Clippers when training camp starts?

The NBA's desire to remove Donald Sterling as the team's owner is running into the quicksand of the legal system, with Donald Sterling continuing to fight his estranged wife's claim that she is the sole trustee of the family trust that runs the Clippers, and is thus legally able to sell the team to former Microsoft chair Steve Ballmer for $2 billion.

Shelly Sterling's probate hearing continues today in Los Angeles Superior Court, with Donald Sterling's attorneys presenting his case. Donald Sterling was declared mentally incapacitated after examinations by two physicians in May, which left Shelly Sterling as the sole trustee of the Sterling Family Trust. The neurologists backed Shelly Sterling's claim that her husband is suffering from Alzheimer's Disease, which Donald Sterling and his attorneys have vehemently denied.

The probate hearing is supposed to conclude by July 28. The sale of the Clippers to Ballmer was supposed to be ratified at last week's Board of Governors meeting in Las Vegas during the Summer League. But the probate hearing hasn't finished, and the sale can't be approved by the NBA's owners until it is determined Shelly Sterling has legal standing to sell the team.

The agreement between Ballmer and Shelley Sterling has a 30-day extension window, giving the parties until Aug. 15 to finalize the sale. There is another provision that allows the parties another year to consummate the sale, subject to Ballmer's and the league's approval. That would, of course, mean that Shelly or Donald Sterling, depending on what the probate judge decides, could still own the team when training camps begin in October.

The NBA has said that that won't happen, and that if the probate judge rules in Donald Sterling's favor, it will quickly reinstate the termination hearing originally scheduled for last May, when the league sought to take the team from Donald Sterling after it determined he had made racist remarks in a conversation with a girlfriend. NBA Commissioner Adam Silver banned Donald Sterling from the league for life and fined him $2.5 million.

The termination hearing was postponed after the league helped Shelly Sterling find a buyer for the team. Ballmer outbid several well-heeled prospective buyers for the Clippers, who set a record for highest price paid for an NBA franchise. Only the sale of Major League Baseball's Los Angeles Dodgers in 2012 for $2.1 billion is higher.

But when I asked Silver at his news conference last week if he could say with certainty that neither Donald nor Shelly Sterling would still be in charge of the team at the start of next season, he could not.

"No, I cannot say with certainty, and I can't say with certainty because it's in the hands of the probate court right now, and Donald is in the process of suing us for lots of money, and we're defending ourselves against those lawsuits," Silver said, referring to the $1 billion lawsuit Donald Sterling filed both against the league and Silver in June.

"The only thing I'll say, and I appreciate that [Sacramento Mayor] Kevin Johnson, who's been representing in essence the players in this matter and direct discussions with the players and the Players Association understand it's very difficult to say anything with certainty in a situation like this," Silver continued. "I can say with certainty we are doing everything in our power to move Donald out as an owner in the NBA, and as I said, if the probate ruling doesn't go in our favor, we'll recommence our procedures under termination."

Johnson also has taken over the union's search for a permanent executive director after the union fired former director Billy Hunter. During the playoffs, Johnson acted as a liason between the league and the players, including union president Chris Paul, the Clippers' All-Star guard.

But would players consider some sort of action if the Sterlings are still in place in the fall?

"Very good question," one member of the union's executive board texted Sunday. "We've been focused on ed [the Executive Director search] but that's been on my mind. Def[initely] will be discussed with new ed."

Taking action would require players to again be engaged in an issue bigger than themselves, something that is hard for any group of people to maintain for a long period of time.

"What I was saying a couple of months ago was when the news cycle changes, and it's not the biggest story in sports any more, people might not be as excited about making a bold move. And that's where we're at," said Dr. Todd Boyd, the Katherine and Frank Price Endowed Chair for Study of Race and Popular Culture at the University of Southern California, Sunday night.

"At this point, in the end of July, October is a few months away," Boyd said. "The whole thing was that passionate moment. People were so engaged. But I think Sterling's playing the long game."

Players were enraged in the wake of Sterling's original comments, in which he disparaged minorities and asked his girlfriend not to bring black people, including Hall of Famer Magic Johnson, to Clippers games. Clippers players wore their warmup jerseys inside out before Game 4 of their first-round series against Golden State, hiding the team logo as a silent protest.

Both teams contemplated boycotting Game 5 of their series on April 29, according to sources. One Golden State player said it was "seriously discussed" as late as the morning of the game, and there were less fleshed-out ideas about players on other teams taking similar actions. But after Silver announced the lifetime ban and fine later that day, those ideas were shelved.

LeBron James said he'd "wavered back and forth" on whether he'd have boycotted a game if an owner of his team had made similar statements.

But the union's vice president, Roger Mason, Jr., said on Jim Rome's Showtime program in May that James and other players would boycott the start of the 2014-15 season if Donald or Shelly Sterling still owned the Clippers.

"If it's not handled by ... the start of next season, I don't see how we're playing basketball," Mason said in the interview. "... Leaders of the teams, they're all saying the same thing, 'If this man is still in place, we ain't playing.'"

That included James, Mason said.

"I was just in the locker room three or four days ago. LeBron and I talked about it," Mason said. "He ain't playing if Sterling is still an owner ... no Sterling deserves to be an owner of that franchise any longer. And I've gone down the line from LeBron to the other guys in the league that I've talked to and they all feel the same way. There's no place for that family in the NBA."

James said a couple of days later that he had never indicated to Mason, a former Heat teammate who'd been traded to Sacramento, that he'd boycott the start of next season if the Sterlings were still in charge.

"Roger comes in here, we speak about issues," James said. "I believe that issue came up but as a team we never discussed it. Roger is a great guy. I don't have a problem with him at all."

Mason then backtracked the comments he'd made to Rome.

"My bad if I was not clear," Mason said in a message on his Twitter account. "LBJ never said anything about boycotting. He's a friend and I would never want to imply something he didn't say."

The Clippers have moved on.

The NBA hired former Time Warner and Citigroup executive Richard Parsons as interim CEO in May. The league was proactive with team employees on the front lines with the public, providing counseling for anyone who asked for it. Parsons, NBA deputy commissioner Mark Tatum and Rivers had several meetings with employees at the height of the crisis.

And Parsons has given Clippers coach Doc Rivers free rein to re-make the front office.

Rivers, who already had full control of basketball operations, promoted Kevin Eastman into the position of vice president of basketball operations. He also named longtime associate Dave Wohl the team's general manager and brought in former Knicks coach Mike Woodson as an assistant.

Rivers is also reportedly working to bring in Wizards assistant Sam Cassell, having lost associate head coach Alvin Gentry to Golden State and assistant Tyronn Lue to Cleveland.

"I'm doing my job," Rivers told local reporters after the Draft in June. "I know there's a lot of stuff out there and there's a lot of things that can happen, but after going through during the playoffs, I made one decision, I'm just going to keep working. As long as you just keep working and doing your job, hopefully I'll wake up one morning and it's all over, but it's not going to stop us from doing whatever we want to do ... we have an open sign outside. It doesn't say closed for vacation or business trip, so right now we're good."

The team did not appear to have any problems attracting players in free agency. The Clippers signed guard Jordan Farmar and center Spencer Hawes this month, and re-signed Glen Davis to a one-year deal last week.

"Doc did such a great job that Jordan didn't have any problems," said Farmar's agent, Tony Dutt. Farmar signed a two-year deal with a player option after the first season.

And it's hard to see James, freshly reunited with his hometown Cavaliers, having much interest in a job action on opening night.

"Can you imagine him at the start of the season? He's stepping on his own story," Boyd said. "They [the league] can say 'Well, it's not like we didn't do anything. We have to let the process play itself out in the courts.' "

Which is, basically, what Silver is saying now, hoping that process doesn't run into October.

"The only reason I say I can't say it with certainty, it's possible some court would step in and stop us," Silver said last week. "I think it's highly, highly unlikely because we are absolutely acting within our rights, and I think what's transpired in probate court so far has made it even clearer that we are acting not only within our rights but doing what is right and appropriate in this situation."

... AND NOBODY ASKED YOU, EITHER

The Sons of the Cuyahoga! From Lee Cheatham:

Do you see Cleveland winning the East with the signing of James? I still see Chicago or Indiana coming out of the east, but I never bet against LeBron. Barring any extenuating circumstances i.e. injuries, trades, etc., who do you think will represent the East in the 2015 finals?

We're in July, Lee. I have no idea what I'm going to have for breakfast tomorrow, much less who'll come out of the East in 11 months. But, I would certainly say Chicago and Cleveland are the favorites at the moment, with Toronto, Washington, Indiana, Miami and Charlotte on their heels. But making a prediction now is crazy.

That's never going to heal if you don't stop picking. From Andwele J. Lewis:

Please tell me which option below you would choose.

A. You have at least one NBA championship guaranteed with Kevin Love in the next three years, five years of losing in the playoffs and then five years of not making the playoffs.

B. You have 13 years of playoff exits with Andrew Wiggins but no titles. Just as he rounds into form. LeBron is winding down.

Being from Detroit and having lived through Option A, I think I would go with B.

We got a title, we were "competitive" for five years after and then we were awful. I always think about how different things would have been if we had drafted Carmelo Anthony or Chris Bosh instead of Darko Milicic and how we could have been competitive for many more years. Even if we never won a title, being competitive for a longer period is better because there is always hope, whereas being a non-playoff team is just so draining.

I agree. Sustained excellence is the hardest thing to pull off in sports, and it's the most meaningful. The San Antonio Spurs are, of course, the gold standard, but so are teams like Dirk Nowitzki's Dallas Mavericks and the Stockton-to-Malone Utah Jazz of the 1990s and 2000s -- who won, year after year for more than a decade -- and, ultimately, had a shot or two at winning it all. Plus, if it was my call, I'd keep Wiggins, simply because you have no idea what you have yet. What if he becomes Scottie Pippen? Maybe he won't, but the Cavs don't know what he's going to become. And, while I have no doubt LeBron James's intent today is to spend the rest of his career in Cleveland, his intent a year ago was to stay in Miami. Circumstances change. And, people change their minds. If I'm Cleveland, I cannot -- cannot -- have another 2010 Decision, with LeBron leaving and the franchise collapsing. If you keep Wiggins, even if James leaves again in '16, you have another potential superstar to build around, along with Kyrie Irving, etc.

No guts, no glory. From Stephane Glynn:

I recently finished reading psychologist/statistician Gerd Gigerenzer's book Risk Savvy, in which he makes a compelling argument for the value of gut instincts, especially for individuals making decisions in a field of their expertise.

I was wondering if you had any thoughts regarding the use of statistics in today's NBA, and whether an argument can still be made towards gut instincts and the "eye test."

While I'm sure there are many (if not all) teams which have excellent statistics teams and experts, Houston seems to be the most steeped in statistics. Not sure this is actually working out for them.

Would love to know your thoughts!

I am a recovering skeptic, Stephane. I have come to accept the idea advanced by the proponents of advanced analytics that more information is not a bad thing used in concert with other information at your disposal. And that's all analytics are -- more information. My concern remains that the league's newer owners are embracing analytics too closely, at the expense of more traditional front office people who not only use their eyes, but their years of experiences and their numerous contacts around the world to make decisions about players. The best front offices blend all of those elements.

Send your questions, comments, criticisms and future bets for Rory McIlroy's dad to make for you to daldridgetnt@gmail.com. If your e-mail is sufficiently funny, thought-provoking, well-written or snarky, we just might publish it!

BY THE NUMBERS

1 -- Career strikeouts for Tracy McGrady, whose stint with the Sugar Land Skeeters ended last week following his appearance in the Atlantic League All-Star Game in Sugarland, Texas. McGrady pitched 1.1 innings and struck out the Camden Riversharks' Bryan Pounds in his final appearance on the mound. McGrady immediately announced his retirement from baseball, which encompassed four starts. (By the way, I happen to hold my Riversharks' baseball cap as one of my prized possessions, as the team's logo is one of the best in all of sports.)

16 -- Consecutive Vegas Summer League games the Golden State Warriors had won, including during their run to the league championship a year ago, before losing to the Lakers last week on a last-second tip-in by Jordan Clarkson.

93 -- Age of Red Klotz, the longtime coach of the Harlem Globetrotters' longtime foil, the Washington Generals. The Generals were, and remain, the "opponent" the Globetrotters play when they entertain fans with their on-court schtick, often featuring confetti, balls hidden under jerseys, Generals players having their shorts taken down -- and the Globetrotters, always, winning. No one knows for sure, but the Globies have a winning streak over the Generals reaching into the tens of thousands, dating to the last time Washington beat Harlem -- believed to be Jan. 5, 1971, according to the Generals' official website. That day, Klotz, himself a fine player back in the '40s, made the game-winning shot for the Generals. Klotz was on the Baltimore Bullets team in 1948 that won the Basketball Association of America title; the BAA eventually merged with its rival, the National Basketball League, to form the NBA in 1949. Klotz died July 12, and his death was announced last week.

I'M FEELIN' ...

1) Vegas is draining, even when you're not covering four games a day. But there were so many good stories out of the Samsung Summer League, whether or not they wind up making the NBA in the fall: Dallas' Yuki Togashi, Cleveland's Will Cherry, Denver's Jerelle Benimon and Philly's Jordan McRae, among others. (I am not speaking of guys like the Bulls' Tony Snell, Phoenix's T.J. Warren or Washington's Otto Porter, Jr., who also had very good summer leagues, but are already assured of being in their respective teams' rotations.) The SL is always about stories, and connections, and it didn't fail to deliver again this year. Even though it was a trillion degrees outside.

2) The Wiz may not get Kevin Durant to come home in 2016, but they're pulling out all the stops. As they should.

3) That was a great speech at the ESPYs, Stuart Scott.

4) I tip my cap to Brand Jordan's Derek Jeter "Respect" commercial, which features, among others, Michael Jordan, Phil Jackson and Jeanie Buss. Outstanding.

5) We continue to receive great submissions from fans looking to be a Guest Morning Tipper while I'm on vacation next month. Remember: you must truly love the orange leather, pro variety; you must have a good story or stories to tell about how, and why, you fell for the NBA, and you must still have some connection, either through playing, or watching, or otherwise obsessing. Keep 'em coming, and send them to daldridgetnt@gmail.com.

NOT FEELIN' ...

1) The Lakers insist that their process for picking a coach to replace Mike D'Antoni continues apace, and that the long delay was exacerbated by the team's pursuit of free agents like Carmelo Anthony and LeBron James. They will, they say, pay top dollar for any coach. I have no reason to believe that's not true. But if so, the team needs to get someone in place. D'Antoni resigned on April 30. It's been two and a half months. They've interviewed Byron Scott, who played 11 of his 14 seasons as a Laker, three times. They have to know everything they need to know about him.

2) A midseason NBA tournament? No. No. Let me say this another way: no.

3) Hope you feel better, Bill Russell.

3a) Hope you feel better, Fred Hoiberg.

4) Pam Oliver is a friend, and so is her husband, with whom I enjoy working greatly. So I was sad to see that Fox Sports is officially replacing Pam on its lead NFL broadcasts next season with Erin Andrews. I have nothing against Erin, but I have a lot of regard for Pam, who has been nothing but a professional for years and years on football sidelines, doing the job the right way. There aren't enough people in our business who do so.

5) Very few actors can create two fully formed characters with as much appeal as Bret Maverick and Jim Rockford, the latter of which was a staple in the household of a budding teenager in the '70s. RIP, James Garner.

Q & A: DOUG MCDERMOTT

He was limping, with a left foot injury that would ultimately sideline him for the Bulls' last Summer League game last week. But Doug McDermott had already shown Chicago more than enough in his first four games as a pro. The first-round pick, acquired from Denver in a Draft-night deal along with Anthony Randolph for the Bulls' two firsts and a second-round pick, averaged 18.0 points a game in his four Vegas games, showing the exact same game that made him an Associated Press all-American his last three seasons at Creighton, making him the first player since Patrick Ewing and Wayman Tisdale in 1985 to earn AP all-American honors three times.

"McBuckets" led the nation in scoring as a senior, winning the Wooden, Rupp, Naismith and Oscar Robertson awards as the nation's best player, averaging better than 26 points a game. He scored 3,150 points during his college career, good for fifth-best all-time among NCAA players, trailing only Pete Maravich (3,667 for LSU -- without a 3-pointer, you should note), Portland State's Freeman Williams (3,249), LaSalle's Lionel Simmons (3,217) and Mississippi Valley State's Alphonso Ford (3,165). McDermott put up those numbers despite opposing teams concentrating all of their efforts on him, throwing every conceivable defense at him, and despite the Bluejays not really having anyone who could take the pressure off of him.

McDermott still fell to 11th, with concerns about his defense a part of the calculus -- even though he more than held his own as one of just two college players invited last year to the U.S. senior men's team training camp in Vegas, including when he guarded Warriors forward Harrison Barnes, a teammate of McDermott's at Ames High School in Iowa. The Bulls, in desperate need of scoring, didn't hesitate to pick him up, seeing the possibilities McDermott could create playing off a returning Derrick Rose, or playing weakside off of Pau Gasol or Joakim Noah. Whether he starts or not in Chicago, McDermott starts his pro career in much better position to succeed immediately than most of his fellow lottery selections.

Me: I'm sure you're very familiar with all of the standard pro sets already. When you think of floppy, or pin downs, or single double, which one of those is best suited for your game?

Doug McDermott: I think floppy is a really good one. Just because I'm a guy that's pretty good at making quick decisions, decisions before the play even happens, kind of. So I think that one is pretty good for me. And, you know, just like simple flares on the weak side. I'm a guy that's good at moving without the ball. So I like the floppy sets best.

Me: Are you using summer league to work on the footwork you need to run the NBA versions of floppy and flares?

DM: Yeah, definitely. The floppy in the NBA is a lot different than the floppy in college, because in college there's no defensive three seconds. So you can come off and make a pass, but there's a guy standing right there. In the NBA, it's a little more different. You get a little more freedom out there. It's a pretty good advantage.

Me: Have you found your size gives you better passing angles?

DM: Yeah, I think so. I've got pretty good size, and coming off those screens, being able to see over guys, obviously the centers are huge [in the NBA], and the power forwards. But that plays to my advantage.

Me: Maybe some of the Spurs' sets, like 'hammer' and the others?

DM: Yeah, I think that's a pretty good action for me, too. I just, I'm a guy that likes working with space. I know a lot of times I'm going to be asked to sit in the corner, and I'll have to adjust to that.

Me: Were you surprised you weren't taken in the top 10 of the Draft, given your stats in college?

DM: I'm not at all. I only worked out for four teams, so I kind of slid a little bit. After Charlotte and Philly passed, I got a little nervous, because I didn't work out for a whole lot of those teams after that. So, thankfully, the Bulls made that trade with Denver.

Me: Have you thought about playing off of Gasol, Derrick Rose, all those guys?

DM: It's pretty crazy. They're really unselfish guys, and I think I'm one of those as well. I'll do whatever it takes to win. Obviously, we're loaded with talent on this roster. I'm just looking forward to learning from them and fitting in.

Me: I would think it's actually going to be a lot easier for you in the NBA than in college.

DM: I'd like to think so. I saw just about every defense, individually, known to man in college. In the NBA, you've got to earn that respect. As a rookie, I'm not going to see those kinds of defenses. They're going to be more focused on Derrick Rose, and Pau, and Joakim [Noah]. I'm looking forward to that a little bit.

Me: And the physicality is, in many ways, greater in college than in the pros.

DM: Yeah. In college, especially guys that were guarding me, they had nothing to lose. They were really trying to shut me down every game, so that took a mental toll and a physical toll out on the floor. In the NBA, there's a lot more space, a lot more space to work with.

Me: If you were playing yourself, how would you attack you?

DM: That's a tough question. I never even thought about that. I guess just being real physical, and then switching off screens. I think in college, I got open a lot just because I was able to be crafty with the switches. In the NBA, I never know what I'm going to see.

Me: You like 'McBuckets' as a nickname?

DM: I think it's funny. It's probably not going to be the same in college in terms of buckets, but it's pretty cool. Everyone says it's one of the better nicknames they've heard, so I guess so.

Me: For a kid from the Midwest, I would imagine opening night at the United Center is going to be pretty special for you.

DM: Yeah, it's a dream. Chicago is the sports city everybody loves in the Midwest. Me being from Iowa, we don't have any pro teams, so we cheer either for the Timberwolves or the Bulls. It's pretty much half and half. But I was a Bulls guy.

TWEET OF THE WEEK

Home Is Where The Heart Is... My Home,My City,My House..‪#HeatLifer‬
-- Miami guard Dwyane Wade (@DwyaneWade), Tuesday, 12:59 p.m., after re-signing with the Heat. Oh, how I'd love to have some truth serum and an available arm of the Heat's longtime star; what did he really believe LeBron was going to do, and how does he feel about walking away from $41 million over the next two years?

THEY SAID IT

"Signing Luol Deng is one of the most important free agent signings that we have ever had in the history of the franchise. He is a proven All-Star and quintessential team player, both as a scorer, as well as an All-NBA defender. He brings the attitude of a warrior and competes every single night against the very, very best."
-- Heat President Pat Riley, dipping into the hyperbole ink in his statement officially announcing Miami's signing of Luol Deng.

"Our owner talked to him specifically about the fact that those are things that we can work on. He knows that. He knows that sometimes he has crossed the line a little bit. I think he does that out of competitiveness."
-- Hornets Coach Steve Clifford, in a conference call with local reporters, on what Charlotte owner Michael Jordan told newly signed free agent Lance Stephenson concerning Stephenson's past antics, including the blowing in the ear thing with LeBron James during the playoffs. Clifford told the Charlotte Observer that Jordan told him there were things he liked about his game, and that there were things "I need to calm down on."

"This year, I am able to talk more meaningfully, more in-depth, about the way we want to play and what we want it to look like and the kind of players we think will be successful with us and help us be successful. It was more meaningful this summer of having a year to see it."
-- Hawks Coach Mike Budenholzer, to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, on how the team's style of play evolved during his first season as Atlanta's head coach, and how he can express that to prospective free agents going forward.

Longtime NBA reporter and columnist David Aldridge is an analyst for TNT. You can e-mail him here and follow him on Twitter.

The views on this page do not necessarily reflect the views of the NBA, its clubs or Turner Broadcasting.

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