Bojan Bogdanovic was mostly hitting, contributing 44 points in the Nets’ 131-114 win over the 76ers Tuesday night at Barclays Center. But Chris McCullough was mostly sitting, contributing just one point in 6:37.
McCullough’s right ACL tear limited his Syracuse run to 16 games as a freshman last season and claimed the first 50 games of this rookie season. The Nets have limited the first-round pick’s minutes from when he finally made his debut on Feb. 8, three days after he turned 21.
The springy, 6-9, 210-pound forward is a promising young guy learning on the job in the NBA, still very much an early work in progress.
“Defensively, I think he’s probably had the bigger impact, because he’s a bouncy kid; he’s long, he can get off the floor and challenge shots,” interim coach Tony Brown said on Wednesday. “I think probably where he struggles the most is when he’s playing against bigger guys, a little more physical than he probably had to deal with in his half a season at Syracuse . . . Offensively, I think it’s just time. He needs to get experience.”
McCullough has appeared in only 11 games. He will take averages of 37.9-percent shooting, 2.5 points, 1.3 rebounds and 10.4 minutes into the 19-48 Nets’ game Thursday night in Chicago.
“I thought the game was going to be much faster than what it was,” McCullough said of the transition. “But I think I’ve picked up the pace pretty fast.”
The knee had slowed his pace. His ACL took a wrong turn on Jan. 11, 2015, against Florida State. He was averaging 9.3 points, 6.9 rebounds and 2.1 blocks, and he had made the watch list for the Wayman Tisdale Freshman of the Year Award. Despite the injury and brief college time, he decided to go pro.
“I just felt like it was my time to go,” McCullough said. “I took a chance and made the best of my opportunity.”
The Nets brought him to Brooklyn as the 29th overall selection.
“I’m from the Bronx,” McCullough said, “so it means a lot just to play for the hometown team.”
But he said it has been “definitely hard” tipping off his season so late. McCullough believes his overall game and his body need work. But he’s willing, and he’s sure Year 2 is going to be different from Year 1.
“I’m definitely going to be much better than I am now, way stronger than I am now,” McCullough said. “So I just can’t wait for that to happen.”
He’s rather concise about his ultimate hoop dreams.
“Just play for about 15 years and hopefully become an All-Star,” McCullough said. “That’s about it.”