SALT LAKE CITY—Bulls head coach Tom Thibodeau did his best to keep it a secret.
“I could be,” the coach said Monday night, before the Bulls’ 89-83 loss to the Jazz at Energy Solutions Arena, when asked if he’d keep the same starting lineup he used in the team’s previous game, Sunday afternoon’s loss to the Clippers at the Staples Center.
“There could be,” he said, smiling, when asked if a change would be made.
And when he was questioned directly about whether rookie swingman Tony Snell would be in the starting lineup, the coach tacitly acknowledged, “He’s a possibility.”
The soft-spoken New Mexico product was an easier nut to crack, saying, “I think so,” when asked if he was starting. Snell did make his first NBA start Monday against Utah, playing shooting guard in place of veteran Mike Dunleavy Jr., who came off the bench, and scoring nine points, including his first three-pointer in a regular-season contest, in 25 minutes of play.
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Playing meaningful minutes in Sunday afternoon’s loss against the Clippers at the Staples Center in his hometown of Los Angeles wasn’t a bad way to ease Snell into a more prominent role.
“I was trying to get a feel of it and it kind of slowed down for me,” he explained. “It helps a lot, gives me the feel of the game and how the game is, and just try to get comfortable with it.”
Although he hadn’t seen extensive regular-season playing time, Snell believes he now possesses a solid knowledge of the Bulls’ system
“Yeah, I’m picking it up pretty quick. That’s why I was sitting down watching Lu and Jimmy, just for an opportunity like this to happen. It’s here now, so I’ve got to take advantage,” he said. “Opportunities like this don’t come around much, so I’ve got to take advantage.
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“I’m a really hard worker. Anything the coaches ask me to do, I’m going to go out there and do it. Defensively, I feel like I’ve improved a lot. Offensively, just trying to learn the plays, and just try to move around and make plays,” Snell continued. “I don’t feel uncomfortable with anything. I feel comfortable with everything.”
Snell was referring to whatever he encountered on the court, but he could have been easily been talking about his changing role.