NEW YORK—Bulls rookie Erik Murphy has been the odd man out this season.
As fellow youngsters like Marquis Teague and the team’s other rookie, swingman Tony Snell, receive playing time because of injuries at their respective positions, Murphy, a second-round pick, has had to bide his time at power forward, arguably the Bulls’ strongest spot. Starter Carlos Boozer and top reserve Taj Gibson have been healthy all season, so the Rhode Island native hasn’t been able to show off his shooting range, the biggest reason why he’s in the league.
But Bulls head coach Tom Thibodeau remains high on his fellow New Englander because of his approach and work ethic.
“[Murphy has] done fine. I really like our rookies because of their attitude and approach. They have to constantly work, study, be ready. You never know when you get called upon. We’ve been so shorthanded that Murphy has played the three in practice for us,” Thibodeau explained. “Their job is to bring energy to practice, be great in practice, get here early, study. You never know how things unfold. DJ is a perfect example of that. He wasn’t playing at all and now all of a sudden he’s playing a lot. Things always change in this league.”
The University of Florida product continues to keep an optimistic attitude, to go along with a mentality that drives him to get in as much extra work as possible to keep his shooting stroke sharp and attempt to develop other aspects of his game while soaking in as much knowledge as possible.
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“Obviously I’d love to be out there, but like you said, we’re really deep at the forward spot and they’re really good players. I’ve just got to be patient and keep working. That’s all I can do. I wouldn’t say it’s tough because right now, they’re what helps the team more. Like I said, I would love to be out there, but I’m just doing whatever I have to do, do my job, show up and work hard every day, and continue to do that,” Murphy, the son of former NBA player Jay Murphy, told CSNChicago.com. “A lot, definitely, especially from all the older guys, all the vets and like you said, at my position, we have some great players. They’ve been through it, so they definitely help a lot and they’re always giving me little bits and pieces of wisdom, and trying to help me out and they’ve been great. I’m loving it. It’s been great so far, learning from those guys. They’re two great guys to learn from and not only them: Naz, Jo, Kirk, all the veterans. They’re all great guys to learn from.”
Murphjy played the final 1:42 of the Bulls’ 95-78 blowout win Wednesday over the Nets at the Barclays Center. The rookie’s lone statistic on the box score was a foul, but here’s guessing nobody else on the court was more focused on doing the right thing on the floor during that time span.