ST. LOUIS—Bulls rookie Erik Murphy was thrown right into the fire in Saturday’s preseason-opening win, playing 19 minutes.
While his stat line of three points and four rebounds was nothing extraordinary, the University of Florida product did what he’s known for, knocking down one three-pointer, as well as battling while matched up with savvy Pacers veteran power forward Luis Scola--though he did pick up four fouls while learning the nuances of NBA post defense in an actual game for the first time--and was part of the second-unit group that held off a charge by Indiana's regulars to secure the victory over the Bulls' Central Division rival.
“It’s exciting. Just stay focused on what my job is and what I can do to help the team. When my name is called, be ready and just go in there, and execute our game plan and execute my job,” he told CSNChicago.com. “It’s been going well. Every day, I learn more stuff, especially us young guys. We’re learning more, we’re doing more and we’re doing a good job of picking it up pretty quickly, and we’ve just got to take that and carry it over to the games, and be able to help the team.
“I think a lot of stuff that you’re used to, you’re acclimated to playing at the college level, it just happens a little quicker, so you’re just adjusting to that speed change. So that’s a big thing. Things happen that much quicker. You’ve got to react to it faster and you’ve got to be ready faster,” continued Murphy, who got plenty of instructions and encouragement from sidelined All-Star center Joakim Noah, a fellow Gator. “I think I’m a big guy that can stretch the floor and keep the defense spread, and give the team that option, something they don’t really have right now for a big, have that guy that can stretch the floor and shoot a three. So I definitely see a potential role for myself, but who knows when it’s going to happen, so I’ve just got to working every day and keep working to do what I can to help.”
The second-round draft pick has also received advice from former SEC foe Marquis Teague, who attended Kentucky during his lone college season, winning a national championship with the Wildcats. The second-year point guard, while younger than Murphy, has passed along some lessons about playing under Thibodeau as a rookie.
“He’s told me it’s a long season and obviously it’s a lot longer than you’re used to in college. You’re going to have your ups and downs but you kind of just take it and learn from it and have a positive attitude,” Murphy said.
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A native of New England and the son of former NBA player Jay Murphy, one of the rookie’s agents is Frank Catapano, a man who helped Thibodeau break into the business, connecting him with the late Bill Musselman. Musselman was the head coach of the then-expansion Minnesota Timberwolves and gave Thibodeau his first job as an NBA assistant coach. Murphy was smart enough not divulge any stories Catapano may or may have shared about a young Thibodeau, though he alluded to them.
“He’s told me a couple. I’m sure he has a lot more I’ll probably hear through the year as I see Frank,” he joked. “But he’s told me a couple and they’re pretty funny.”
But what will really keep Murphy on the coach’s good side is knocking down shots from deep and continuing to show a willingness to play defense, hustle and battle for rebounds.