An hour and 15 minutes before tip-off on the night of January 15 at the United Center in Chicago, Bulls small forward Doug McDermott sat in the plush home-team locker room.
“Not too bad,” McDermott, 24, said of his level of nervousness, as the Bulls’ game versus the Dallas Mavericks approached. “Now that we’re already pretty far into the season, the nerves aren’t quite as much. It’s more getting the body ready.”
“It’s been my dream,” McDermott said of playing in the NBA. But there have been challenges. “It’s a lot of games,” he said. “To be able to be ready every night is sometimes tough.”
Throughout the night’s 83-77 loss to the Mavericks, that difficulty was on display, as the Bulls looked worn out in what was their fourth game in five days, a grueling stretch.
This is McDermott’s second season in the NBA. After an award-winning four-year college hoops career at Creighton, where his father was head coach, he was drafted 11th overall in 2014 by the Denver Nuggets and immediately traded to Chicago.
“It’s just a different game,” he said, comparing the NBA to college. “I feel like the NBA is a lot more physical, a lot more athletes, kind of a quicker game. So that’s been a really big adjustment for me.”
Going into the Bulls-Mavericks game, McDermott had made 44.4% of his field goal attempts and was averaging 21 minutes, 8.2 points, and 2.2 rebounds per game this season.
“I’m a team-first guy,” he said. “Individually I’ll just try to contribute and continue to shoot it well from three.”
As a kid, McDermott played golf, baseball, football, and basketball. He wanted to play in the NBA, but “it’s something I really never thought I could accomplish,” he said. “I was always out in the front yard, shooting hoops. I hit a growth spurt in high school. That really kind of propelled me to become a better player.”
Growing up, he was not a Bulls fan. “I was actually a Pacers fan,” he said with a chuckle. “So… a rival.”
There were “quite a few” players he looked up to as a kid, including Reggie Miller, Larry Bird, and Kevin Durant. “I actually met Kevin Durant when I was a freshman in high school,” McDermott said. “He was playing at Texas, my dad was the coach at Iowa State.”
Asked whether he tries to emulate any current NBA players, McDermott replied, “Not too much. I watch a lot of Ray Allen, Kyle Korver, J.J. Redick — guys like that who come off a lot of screens and shoot.”
McDermott said Bulls guard/forward Jimmy Butler has been a great friend to him. “I worked out with him in the summers a little bit,” he added. “He looks over me. We hang out quite a bit off the floor. He’s been a great teammate and mentor for me.”
He hopes that guidance, and his growth as a pro, will help him reach his biggest goal: an NBA championship.
“Winning a title would be really cool,” he said. “There’s a lot of great players that have played for a while that haven’t gotten to get a ring.
“I think I’m in a good situation here where we could eventually get one.”
Photos: Nati Harnik/AP (McDermott), Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images (action), Mitchell Leff/Getty Images (Butler)