AUBURN HILLS, Mich. -- It's not hard to understand why Tony Snell has fit right into the Chicago Bulls' culture and is thriving after Tom Thibodeau inserted him into the starting lineup Monday night against the Utah Jazz. Just listen to some of the things Snell's teammates and coaches said about him after the rookie dropped in 13 points in Wednesday night's win over the Detroit Pistons.
"The best thing about him is how serious he is," Thibodeau said. "Even when he wasn't playing, his getting ready to play when he wasn't playing told me how serious he was. The questions he asked, on game days at home he just stayed in the arena. He's there all the time. Those type of guys -- when they get opportunities they're ready, and they usually take advantage. He's done a great job, he's got to continue to work, which I know he will because of the type of person he is."
Snell was drafted for a lot of reasons by the Bulls back in June. First and foremost, the front office liked him because he was a long and athletic guard who could shoot. He became even more attractive to the organization because of the fact the executives didn't like the group of big men who were available. Most importantly, Bulls GM Gar Forman knew that Snell would fit into the culture Thibodeau has created. He was a hard worker who lived in the gym and worked on his game all the time.
"But the thing that I like is he's playing all areas of the game," Thibodeau continued. "He's playing defense, he's passing the ball, he's making shots. He's doing a lot of things and he's never satisfied. The first part when a guy comes in you want his attitude and approach to be right, and he's had that from Day 1. So we're pleased with that, and we got to continue to improve as a team."
Thibodeau has improved his team by inserting Snell into the lineup. He's also created an interesting question as to what happens when Jimmy Butler returns from injury. Will Thibodeau stick with Snell given his recent success with the starting group and let Butler come off the bench with Taj Gibson, Kirk Hinrich and Mike Dunleavy Jr. to form a solid second unit?
Only time will tell, but the Bulls are happy to see Snell have some success early on. Teammates and coaches enjoy the fact that he wants to get better on a daily basis.
"I've just been really working with him in practice on the second unit," Gibson said. "Just (saying) take advantage of it. I was in his position at one point where I had the chance to start as a rookie. I told him just have fun with it. At times you see that he's still a rookie, he's still really shy to the game, he's so humble and he works so hard on his game and it's great to see. We got good guys around him supporting him, and he's just stepping up and playing great basketball right now."
For his part, Snell said that both Luol Deng and Butler have gone out of their way to help him get acclimated to the NBA game.
"I've been watching them both when I've been sitting on the bench," Snell said. "And they just told me a couple pointers of where to be at and just play my game."
He's done that well lately, as evidenced by the 13 points he scored against the Pistons in Wednesday night's win.
"Tony can shoot the ball well," Deng said. "I'm just trying to get him to know the characters and what's going on in the game. Guys he's guarding, what's their tendencies, how he could beat them. And he's just going to keep getting better. He's a rookie, and it's just tough there's a lot of stuff out there that could make the game easier for him, and I think he'll learn those (things)."
Given the confidence he's shown over the last week, there's no reason to think that Snell's progression can't happen sooner than expected.
"Just all the hard work I put in, I knew eventually I was going to find it, so I guess I found it (Wednesday night)," he said. "I'll just keep working hard."
That's what the Bulls love about him.