His six-point, eight-rebound outing in 26 minutes of play came as a direct result of the Bulls’ severe injury woes, but Malcolm Thomas cherished every moment.
The athletic power forward, who was signed for the remainder of the season Monday, is still learning the Bulls’ system but his high activity level bodes well, especially for a team currently missing injured big men Taj Gibson and Joakim Noah.
“I felt good. There’s still a lot of stuff that I need to get down, so I can feel 100 percent comfortable, but I felt good. I felt like I could have done a lot of things better, but I’m just happy to be out there,” Thomas said. “I feel like being an energy guy is just mental, really. If you go hard, you do it all the time. It’s just something that I’m going to continue to try to do.
“Running the floor, rebounding, trying to block shots. That’s what I like to do and that’s what I’m here for,” he continued. “I was ready to wait my turn anyway. I’ve got a lot to learn and I’m going to get better, but I wasn’t worried about getting in. If I got in, I had to be ready. I tried to be ready today.”
[More: Bulls lose close call to Raptors]
Bulls head coach Tom Thibodeau was pleased with what he saw from Thomas, a product of San Diego State where he played with San Antonio Spurs small forward Kawhi Leonard.
“Some good, some bad. I like his energy. He’s still finding his way. He doesn’t really know what we’re trying to do, but he can overcome things because of his activity, so I thought overall, he did more good than bad,” the coach said. “That was a good sign. I thought he actually put some juice into the game when he came in.”
Thomas acknowledged that he still has a lot of studying to do before truly feeling comfortable with his new team, which signed him to a pair of 10-day contracts after he initially played for the Warriors, who ironically played the Bulls when he was still on Golden State’s roster last month.
“I don’t know it that well. I’m still learning, but I’m in there every day and I’m pretty sure I’ll have it pretty soon, have the whole thing, and I have good teammates to help me out with it,” he said. “I ask a lot of questions when I don’t something and they’re going to tell me when I don’t know, so I’m going to figure it out.”
Hard work is nothing new for Thomas, who has been on an odyssey since beginning his professional career, which included a stint with the Bulls’ summer-league team in Las Vegas last July.
[More: Even in loss, Butler's career night displays vast potential]
A familiar face from last summer is current teammate Jimmy Butler, who is confident that Thomas can be a contributor.
“We appreciate the high energy and his work ethic. He works incredibly hard and when he’s given his chance, he’s going to show that he’s a player in this league and he’s going to stay here for a while,” Butler said. “I like the way he plays, rebounds, defends. He’s learning and he’s getting better.”