The Bulls’ newest acquisition, Malcolm Thomas, knows that there’s no guarantee that he’s in Chicago for the long haul.
Still, the 6-foot-9 power forward is extremely grateful for the opportunity.
“I can’t explain it in words,” Thomas told CSNChicago.com after Thursday’s morning shootaround at the Berto Center. “But it was what I was hoping for in the offseason and just to have it happen now is even better.”
Thomas played for the Bulls’ summer-league team in Las Vegas last July and excelled, averaging a double-double and leading the entire event in rebounding, which led to him being named to the all-tournament team.
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But while that performance seemed like it would lead to an opportunity for the Bulls or another NBA team, Thomas started his second season out of San Diego State—where he teamed with Spurs’ second-year swingman Kawhi Leonard to lead his hometown Aztecs to the best season in school history—in Israel.
“I was hoping to be here. I thought I played well enough to be here, but it didn’t happen. I didn’t hang my head. I just went on to my next option, which was Israel. I’m very thankful to be here now,” he said of his experience playing professionally overseas. “Israel was amazing. It’s an amazing place. I plan on going back to Israel sometime in my life. It was a great experience. I felt like it helped me mature.”
However, the 24-year-old had another goal, the NBA, and after he spent his first year out of college in the D-League—which led to a stint with San Antonio and a brief reunion with Leonard—after playing for the Lakers in training camp and the preseason, he decided to try his luck again.
Thomas ended up with Santa Cruz, Golden State’s D-League affiliate, and after again showcasing his remarkable rebounding ability, defensive acumen and energetic overall play, he was quickly called up to the Warriors, where he ironically played against the Bulls in their road win last Friday.
“I played last year in the D-League for a while. I felt like it was a better option for me than to go to another place overseas,” Thomas, who will wear No. 3, explained. “[Thomas’ experience with Golden State] was good. It was really unexpected. I didn’t expect to go there, but they gave me a chance and I’m very appreciative. Mark Jackson’s a great coach, it’s a great team and I had fun there, too.
But after his 10-day contract expired, the Bulls came calling, completing the circle for him that began in early July, when he participated in the team’s minicamp at the Berto Center, prior to the start of summer-league play.
Thomas understands that he might not receive much of an opportunity under a coach like Tom Thibodeau, who is a firm proponent of not only being loyal to the players who have toiled under him the whole season, but making sure that players have a total knowledge of his system—especially young players, although Thomas’ predecessor, veteran Lou Amundson, also saw scant playing time—before bestowing them with heavy minutes.
But the defensive-minded Thomas, who focuses on rebounding and shot-blocking, believes he has a key attribute that might make his new coach turn his way, even with the expected return of top reserve Taj Gibson.
“Energy,” Thomas, who has been compared to Gibson, stated. “They’re already a defensive team, so me being a defensive player, I feel like I can get better defensively and I think they can help me be a better player overall.”
Sounds like a fit.