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Monday, December 16, 2013
Opening Tip: Snell looking for time

By Nick Friedell

CHICAGO -- Now that Jimmy Butler and Luol Deng have come back from injury, one player seems to have fallen out of Chicago Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau's rotation: Tony Snell.

Tony Snell
Rookie Tony Snell is poised to assume a larger role in the rotation if the Bulls decide to move Luol Deng in a trade.
The rookie swingman has started eight games this season, the first of which came Nov. 25 against the Utah Jazz, and has played with more confidence as the season has progressed. But he played just five minutes in Saturday night's blowout loss to the Toronto Raptors, and now he finds himself searching for playing time again with Butler and Deng back in the fold. When asked about the situation after Saturday's game, Thibodeau was noncommittal regarding Snell's minutes in the near future.

"We'll see," he said. "We'll see how things unfold."

Thibodeau isn't wrong for sticking with Deng and Butler at this point in time. Both are more established players and Deng is a two-time All-Star. They should get the bulk of the minutes. But Snell's development will be stunted if Thibodeau doesn't find more time for him, a fact that shouldn't be lost on the front office.

That's why the argument to get whatever they can for Deng will likely grow louder than ever over the next month if the Bulls continue to lose. If the organization isn't going to pay Deng what he wants and he's not going to take a serious pay cut, then why not give Snell opportunity to show what he can do in the middle of another lost season?

It's a question that Bulls GM Gar Forman must continue to wrestle with if Snell continues to sit on the bench.

Deng remains focused: After missing the past four games because of a sore Achilles, Deng was happy to be back on the floor with his teammates Saturday night. He still believes the Bulls can turn things around.

"I'm definitely confident," he said. "We're going through it right now up and down, guys getting hurt. We've had seasons where everybody was healthy and at the end of the year people got hurt. So hopefully, this year it's the other way around. We just got to stay positive. I think we're going to get better as the year goes on. Hopefully, guys can stay healthy. It's a long season. It's a long season, and we've learned in the past it's really who's the healthiest team and the team that has the best rhythm at the end of the year. Most of the time that's the team who's going to win it."

As a leader of the team, Deng admitted that he would talk to some of his teammates about keeping their head up if the situation presented itself.

"You just got to be an example," he said. "Guys are looking at you. You got to be positive. You got to talk guys and just staying positive and sticking with it. It's not always going to go your way, but being on both sides [in my career] -- the winning side and the losing side -- you just got to stick with it. And when things aren't going your way, you work harder and try to get things right. You can't just let it beat you up. Whether you get in the gym, watch film, try harder and harder until you get it right."

What's next: The Bulls take on the Orlando Magic on Monday at 7 p.m. CT.

The last word: Joakim Noah, after Friday's last-second win over the Milwaukee Bucks, regarding his emotional status.

"I was talking about it with Mike [Dunleavy]. It's crazy how levelheaded he is. Every day he comes with the same mindset, same mentality. Whether you win or you lose, he's the same. Derrick [Rose]'s like that. I'm like the complete opposite. I'm like an emotional roller-coaster, so I got to try and do a better job of dealing with my highs and lows and try to be more consistent with the next play, moving on, things like that."