When asked if rookies Tony Snell and Erik Murphy were picking things up quicker than most NBA novices, Bulls head coach Tom Thibodeau quipped, “Well, I wouldn’t say that, but we’ll see.”
When asked how things were progressing for him, Snell, the team’s first-round draft pick, confirmed that his first week of training camp has been a whirlwind for him after Thursday’s practice at the Berto Center.
“It’s way faster [than college basketball], man. It’s fast-paced. I’m hanging on. The vets, they’re encouraging me to keep going so it’s good,” the California native explained. “Definitely the pace [of the game is faster than in college]. The competitiveness of everybody, everybody is competing hard, we’re fighting hard and just competing every day.”
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But while his crash course at Camp Thibs hasn’t been easy thus far, the New Mexico product understands that simply being competitive will earn him some respect.
“I’m just going to keep working hard and see where it takes me,” he said. “Just being able to not back down on anybody. If there is a mismatch I’m willing to fight or to post or anything. I’m just fighting on.
“They’re looking for a guy who can rebound, who can play really good defense, just being able to play hard every possession,” he continued. “We have a good chemistry out there and we’re working hard. We’re trying to get to know each other’s strengths and weaknesses. We’re just working together.”
The lanky wing player certainly has some good role models to choose from, as the likes of All-Star small forward Luol Deng and starting shooting guard Jimmy Butler have similar skill sets as defensive-oriented swingmen who can knock down outside shots.
“Just learn as much as I can. Knowing what the vets are doing out there on the court and pick up on what they’re doing,” Snell said. “Every time I sit on the sideline I watch how they shoot and how they play defense with each other and how they shot the ball.”
With Saturday’s preseason opener in Indianapolis approaching, Snell admitted to having some butterflies.
“Of course I’ll be nervous. There is no doubt I’ll be nervous. I’ve been working hard for it, but it’s here so I’m just ready for it,” he acknowledged. “Just looking forward to knowing as much as I can and seeing how the vets play with each other and just soaking everything in every day.”
While there will surely be an adjustment period, Snell started to prepare himself for the rigors of an NBA season after returning to Chicago from the Bulls’ summer-league stint in Las Vegas by bulking up, though the organization’s advice to him wasn’t the most scientific, the way he explained it.
“No, they just told me to eat more. Eat more than I did before,” he said. “I stayed here in the weight room trying to get stronger and bigger and I had some individual coaches working me out, trying to teach me some moves and plays. I just stayed in the weight room and got bigger.”
Snell, who enters the league with a reputation for being a hard worker, said that he hasn’t even had a chance to explore Chicago yet, as his life revolves around round trips between the Berto Center and his home, not far from the practice facility.
“I’m just here in Deerfield most of the time, just practice and go back home,” Snell said. “I haven’t been to many places lately. I went to a Bears game one time. That was really about that.”
That alone should endear him to Thibodeau.