Chicago Bulls: Tony Snell

More confident Snell good sign for Bulls

July, 15, 2014
Jul 15
2:30
PM CT
Friedell By Nick Friedell
ESPNChicago.com
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LAS VEGAS -- When young players come to Tony Snell and ask for advice about playing for Tom Thibodeau, the second-year swingman has a simple answer.

[+] EnlargeTony Snell
Garrett Ellwood/NBAE/Getty ImagesTony Snell is averaging a Vegas-best 25 points through two games.
"I just tell them you've got to work hard every day," Snell said recently. "Thibs likes hard workers and just keep grinding."

The soft-spoken 2013 first-round pick out of New Mexico earned praise from the Bulls' coaching staff last season for his work ethic and professionalism. He just had a hard time translating the extra work from practice into the actual performance when the games started. But if the first few days of the Vegas Summer League are any indication, Snell continues to take his own advice to heart.

He already looks different. Snell said he's added 10 pounds to his frame since the end of last season. He also ditched the cornrows that he has had his entire life. The difference in his play is what has impressed his teammates and coaches on the floor. He is shooting the ball with more confidence, looks much more comfortable on the floor and is leading the Vegas Summer League in scoring at 25 points a game.

"He's been our solid guy," Bulls assistant and summer league head coach Adrian Griffin said. "That gets us a bucket when we need it ... Tony's continued to get better and improving. It's good to see him rewarded for all the hard work that he's put in in the last couple of months."

The people who see Snell go to work every day can see that the 22-year-old is trying to take the next step in his career. The Bulls hope Snell can elevate his game the way Jimmy Butler did during his second season.

"I always say the confidence comes from the work you put in," Griffin said. "That's one thing Tony has been doing all summer starting from last season. He's just constantly in the gym, constantly in the weight room trying to get bigger, work on his game, and it's paying off for him. The thing I always say about the NBA is that game is over with and you've got to get ready for the next game. We want to see how he does over the long haul but so far, so good."

The Bulls are optimistic that Snell can become a consistent rotation player this season. They've always been high on his defensive ability and believe the added confidence will help his shooting and all-around game. For now, Snell is just trying to keep his focus on getting better each day as he prepares for his second NBA season.

"Just stay in the weight room," he said. "Try to get stronger every day. Just keep getting a lot of reps up in the gym."

McDermott, Snell to play summer league

July, 8, 2014
Jul 8
3:49
PM CT
Friedell By Nick Friedell
ESPNChicago.com
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First-round pick Doug McDermott will lead the Chicago Bulls summer league team into action as it begins play on Saturday in Las Vegas.

The Bulls' summer league roster was announced Tuesday and includes last year's first-round pick Tony Snell and this year's second-round selection Cameron Bairstow. Bulls assistant Adrian Griffin will be the head coach with assistants Andy Greer, Ed Pinckney, Mike Wilhelm and Coby Karl.

Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau said on draft night that he expected Derrick Rose to practice with the summer league team, but he wouldn't play. The Bulls open the summer league slate on Saturday night against the Los Angeles Clippers.

Bulls draft hits and misses of Forman era

June, 26, 2014
Jun 26
10:00
AM CT
Friedell By Nick Friedell
ESPNChicago.com
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BullsGetty ImagesIn their last three drafts the Bulls have had a hit (Jimmy Butler), a miss (Marquis Teague) and a work in progress (Tony Snell).
CHICAGO -- James Johnson's biggest claim to fame as a Chicago Bull had nothing to do with anything he accomplished on the basketball court.

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Johnson, who was Gar Forman's first selection as Bulls GM in 2009, didn't turn out to be the player the organization wanted. But he did serve as Derrick Rose's personal protector one night in Oklahoma City during the 2009-10 season.

The Bulls were staying at the Skirvin Hotel, accommodations with a documented history of ghost activity. Rose, who on the verge of playing in his first All-Star Game, took no chances. He roomed with Johnson because of Johnson's martial arts background.

"We were watching [out for] each other," Rose said with a laugh at the time. "We were just up on the computer, just talking. Just having fun the whole night."

While Johnson's tenure didn't produce solid results, Forman and his staff have hit on several other picks in the last five years.

Let's take a look back at some of the Bulls' recent selections:


2009


James Johnson (16th): Miss
He never flourished under Vinny Del Negro and couldn't find consistent minutes in the rotation. He was dealt early in Tom Thibodeau's first season. Jrue Holiday, Ty Lawson and Jeff Teague were the three players drafted right after him.

Taj Gibson (26th): Hit
He has developed into one of the most consistent defensive players in the game. Gibson is one of Thibodeau's favorite players because of how hard he works on both ends of the floor.


2010



The Bulls didn't make a pick. They traded the rights to 17th pick Kevin Seraphin as part of the deal that sent Kirk Hinrich to the Washington Wizards. The Bulls wanted to clear out as much space as they could in order to land LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and/or Chris Bosh. The Bulls ended up with Carlos Boozer.


2011


Nikola Mirotic (23): TBD
The Bulls moved up to snag the lanky forward from Real Madrid. He has yet to play a game in the NBA, but is considered one of the best prospects in Europe. The Bulls are still hopeful that he will come over this summer and help them next season.

Jimmy Butler (30): Hit
Like Gibson, Butler was a late-round pick who has turned himself into one of the best defenders in the league. Butler has put a lot of heart into his game and is respected by teammates and coaches because of his work ethic. His biggest issue remains the lack of a consistent jump shot. Still, he was a solid pick late in the draft and a player that many teams missed on.


2012


Marquis Teague 29: Miss
The strange part about Teague's selection is that while the Bulls worked out a slew of different players before the draft, Teague wasn't one of them. They liked his upside, but he did not do well in Thibodeau's system. He showed flashes of promise, but he never showed much of a jump shot. He was dealt to the Brooklyn Nets last season after barely playing most of the season.


2013


Tony Snell 20: TBD
This pick could haunt Forman for a while. Snell showed some promise in his first season, but he never got consistent minutes behind Butler. The Bulls badly needed a backup big man, but Forman decided against selecting Gorgui Dieng and Mason Plumlee, both of whom had solid rookie seasons. Tim Hardaway Jr., who was taken four slots after Snell, also had a nice year for the New York Knicks. Snell still has time to turn into a solid piece, but the first returns weren't as promising for a team that was already in good shape with its wings.

Bulls player reviews: Tony Snell

May, 16, 2014
May 16
2:46
PM CT
Friedell By Nick Friedell
ESPNChicago.com
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Tony SnellRob Grabowski/USA TODAY SportsThe Bulls like Tony Snell's work ethic and hope that will play a part in him taking a big step going into his second season.

Tony Snell

2013-14 salary: $1,409,040 | Age: 22 | Season stats: 4.5 ppg, 1.6 rpg

Season recap: Snell showed flashes of being a solid player throughout the season, but he was too inconsistent and unsure to make a major impact as a rookie. Coaches and teammates routinely praised his work ethic and seem confident that he will turn into a better player next year.

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Season highlight: Snell scored a season-high 20 points on Feb. 21 against the Denver Nuggets. He played 37 minutes and hit three three-pointers.

Season lowlight: During a Feb. 23 showdown with the Miami Heat, Snell was just 2-for-10 from the field and looked lost sometimes on the floor in 38 minutes of play.

Final grade: C-

Notes: Snell's progression this summer is important to the Bulls especially given that they could have had Gorgui Dieng, Mason Plumlee and Tim Hardaway Jr. in last summer's draft. All three had better rookie years than Snell.

Quotable: "The best thing about him is how serious he is," Thibodeau said in November of Snell. "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."

What's next?: Snell has a chance to crack the rotation next season. He proved to the coaching staff early on that he was a hard worker and will likely play for the Bulls' summer league team in July in Las Vegas. The Bulls need him to take the next step like Jimmy Butler did a season ago.

Bulls' philosophy: 'Best player available'

May, 16, 2014
May 16
11:00
AM CT
Friedell By Nick Friedell
ESPNChicago.com
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Gar Forman and John Paxson AP Photo/Charles CherneySeasons of scouting are more important than the combine for Gar Forman, left, and John Paxson.
CHICAGO -- As Gar Forman watched players race up and down the floor Thursday at the NBA draft combine, the Chicago Bulls' general manager reaffirmed a belief he has stuck to throughout the years in regard to drafting prospects.

"As we put together tiers and evaluate guys, our philosophy has always been to draft the best player available," Forman said. "I think when you're trying to fill needs, that's probably more in free agency or via trades. But with that said, if we have two guys that we rank as equal, then we'll look more at need. But if we feel a prospect is a level above a prospect where we may have a need, we're going to take the best prospect available."

Recent drafts have borne out the veteran basketball man's philosophy. Many believed the Bulls would select a big man to back up Joakim Noah in last year's draft, particularly with prospects Gorgui Dieng and Mason Plumlee still on the board. But Forman decided to go with swingman Tony Snell out of New Mexico -- a decision that didn't immediately pay off for the Bulls while Dieng and Plumlee finished out the season well.

No matter whom Forman decides to select in this draft, he knows the player must be able to fit into the system that he and executive vice president John Paxson have developed along with head coach Tom Thibodeau. The player has to be hard-working and must embrace being coached by the ever-demanding Thibodeau.

"The background work and interview process is important to us like it is a lot of other teams, but you can tell some of that on the floor," Forman said. "We always talk about when you've watched these guys for a couple years and really evaluated them, practice, games and film -- when you meet them, a lot of times you can see their personality on the floor as you visit with them. It all kind of ties together. So part of that is on the floor -- how hard they play, the energy they bring, how they interact with teammates, how they respond to coaching. All those kind of things are important."

That's why Forman, Thibodeau and the rest of the Bulls' front office will continue to watch and see what unfolds at the combine -- but they all know that no matter what they see over the next few days won't mean as much as what they've seen over the past couple of seasons.

"Most of these guys we've scouted extensively for years," Forman said. "And we've seen them in game situations, we've seen them in practice situations. We've done an enormous amount of background work on each and every one of these guys. Though there's some value in the drill part, you can always learn something when you get another look -- really the biggest value of this to us is what happens this afternoon, tonight, [Friday] afternoon and [Friday] night. It's the first opportunity to sit down with a lot of these guys in an interview-type setting and get to know a little bit about their makeup, their character, get a chance to visit with them.

"And then a number of these guys we'll have into our building, where we get to spend even more time with them, and put them through a workout that's more specific with what we want to see. The other thing that's so important about the combine for us and all 30 teams is Saturday and Sunday, the medical [portion] -- where they complete physicals and get a sense if there's any type of problems, either short-term or long-term from a physical standpoint."

3 Points: Bull with best chance at award?

April, 10, 2014
Apr 10
12:00
PM CT
By ESPNChicago.com
ESPNChicago.com
Joakim Noah, Tom Thibodeau, Taj GibsonGetty ImagesThe Bulls should be well-represented when it comes to NBA awards this season.
Every week, Nick Friedell is joined by two other ESPN writers to weigh in on three questions that are on the minds of Chicago Bulls followers.

1. Which is most likely to happen: Joakim Noah wins defensive player of the year, Taj Gibson wins sixth man of the year or Tom Thibodeau wins coach of the year?


Nick Friedell, ESPNChicago.com Bulls writer: All three have a good shot to happen, but I'd go with Noah as the defensive player of the year in this group. He has earned a lot of respect throughout the league for the way he has led the Bulls on and off the floor this season. He is the linchpin of Thibodeau's stout defense and the player from which the rest of his teammates take their cues. Noah isn't going to win the MVP award, but this would be a nice consolation prize for him.

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Jon Greenberg, ESPNChicago.com columnist: There's a groundswell of support for all three, or there should be. I'm guessing Gibson for sixth man is the most likely, with Noah and Thibs finishing in the top five of their respective ballots. I think Noah has a very strong case for first-team All-NBA, and he'll get MVP votes. Gibson might not be the instant-offense scorer that defines most sixth man winners, but he's clearly the most well-rounded substitute in the league. He has been a premium post defender since his second season in the NBA, but his offense has opened eyes this season. I think he beats out ex-Bull Jamal Crawford for the award and then, starting next season, graduates to a full-time starter.

Scoop Jackson, ESPN.com columnist: Jo as DOY. That's easy. Not that Taj and Tom don't deserve those respective awards, but the NBA has to find a way to make up for not giving JoNo the MVP when "technically" he might be more deserving of it than anyone else in the league.


2. Will the Bulls be worn out in the playoffs like they were in years past?


Friedell: While nobody ever really knows how a team will perform in the playoffs, my guess is that the Bulls won't hit the wall as hard as they did in years past. Aside from his use of Jimmy Butler, Thibodeau has made a concerted effort to pull back on some of the heavy minutes guys such as Noah and Kirk Hinrich played, when healthy, last season. Those little bits of extra rest should help over the course of the postseason. What will be interesting is to see just how much, if at all, Thibodeau uses his bench -- besides contributors such as D.J. Augustin and Taj Gibson.

[+] EnlargeJimmy Butler
AP Photo/Charles Rex ArbogastJimmy Butler is fourth in the NBA, averaging 38.3 minutes per game.
Greenberg: I don't think so, besides the typical wear and tear that every team shows this time of year. Butler is fourth in the league in average minutes at 38.3, but the next-highest Bull is Noah, who is tied for 32nd at 34.9. Noah's 2,620 minutes is tops on the Bulls but only 23rd in the NBA. Thibodeau will never live down his "minute man" reputation, but aside from Butler's workload, he has deftly handled a seven-man rotation for much of the season. I side with Thibodeau on the point that great players log big minutes, and we harp on it a bit too much. All those injuries created that storyline, though. It seems like the Bulls' tweaks to the training staff have helped. I know that Noah's training regimen is different than in years past, and he finally got rid of his old shoes. Hinrich's health is key and the addition of Augustin has been crucial to keeping him on the floor.

Jackson: There's a great possibility in that. To the degree that if it happens, no one should be surprised. But unlike in years past, they've had a considerable amount of time to deal with the setbacks they've had to face. Mentally that doesn't exhaust you the way it does when major players unexpectedly go down and at this time of year (Derrick Rose in 2012, Luol Deng and Kirk Hinrich in 2013) or when expectations are high with hope and prayers of an MVP's return that never happens. This year, as worn out as they have the right to be after what they've done during the regular season, they are better prepared to mentally fight through it than they have been in the past.


3. Will Ronnie Brewer jump Tony Snell in the rotation?


[+] EnlargeRonnie Brewer
AP Photo/Nam Y. HuhRonnie Brewer figures to cut into rookie Tony Snell's minutes in the playoffs.
Friedell: Yes, I think so. It takes time for Thibodeau to earn a player's trust -- just ask Butler. Snell has shown flashes of being a solid rotation player, but there are still times he frustrates Thibodeau. Brewer is a proven defensive commodity. If he can get back into basketball shape -- and knock down an occasional jumper -- I think he'll take a bulk of Snell's minutes in the postseason.

Greenberg: If he's in game shape, yes. Snell's a much better long-range shooter, but he's not Kyle Korver quite yet. He's still learning how to play on auto-pilot, as in without thinking on the floor, just reacting. I think Snell can be a very good pro, but Brewer's got that veteran split-second edge. If Brewer can show he can give Thibodeau 8-10 worry-free minutes, he'll get the call before Snell in the playoffs.

Jackson: Probably once the playoffs start, especially if the Bulls get to the second round. I'm not saying that Snell can't handle the playoff stage, but coaches shrink their benches in April, May and June, and usually vets with playoff experience get the nod over rookies that aren't superstars. Plus, Brewer was brought in to be, and is going to be, a glue guy for this team. He will be a utility player who is going to be asked to do a little bit of everything whenever he is on the court or when the Bulls are in need of something to fill a void. Snell is probably going to be asked to do only one or two things: score and cover for Butler if he gets in foul trouble. By that theory alone, Brewer will probably interrupt the rotation and Snell will be the one who suffers.

Confident Bulls better than last season

March, 24, 2014
Mar 24
12:16
PM CT
Friedell By Nick Friedell
ESPNChicago.com
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CHICAGO -- The Chicago Bulls lack an elite superstar talent without Derrick Rose on the floor, but they aren't lacking in another important category -- confidence.

[+] EnlargeJoakim Noah and Thibodeau
AP Photo/Nam Y. HuhTom Thibodeau's coaching and Joakim Noah's elevated all-around game have helped the Bulls surprise this season.
That swagger is created day after day in practice and in the preparation that coach Tom Thibodeau puts his team through before the season even begins. And it helps them overcome the adversity created by the loss of Rose and the trade of Luol Deng.

As much as they still miss Deng's presence, the reality for the Bulls is that they are better right now than they were at this point last season.

"Yeah, I think so," Bulls forward Taj Gibson said recently. "I just think mentally everybody's more aware of things. Everybody's just more on edge all the time. I think last year we didn't really know what was going to happen. We were in it, but we [didn't have] too much experience. As soon as Derrick got hurt again [this year] we kind of knew what was going to happen.

"But then guys just picked it up and stepped their games up. And then a lot of guys, you look on our bench, got a lot of confidence now. Everybody's playing with a ton of confidence. Everybody already knows where they're going to get their shots, what they need to do to get themselves going, what they need to do on defense. And everybody's just all-in, and I feel it's going to help us come playoff time."

The Bulls, who face the Indiana Pacers again Monday night at the United Center, lost Deng and Rose -- but they got better.

How did they do it?

First and foremost, Thibodeau is doing the best coaching job of his career. He didn't allow his players to fall into a complete tailspin when Rose went down in November and after Deng was traded in January. He adjusted on the fly to his new group and changed aspects of his plan to put his players in better positions to succeed.

In particular, he pushed Joakim Noah and got the All-Star center to buy into his system as the focal point of the offense. He got Noah to believe in this season as a building block, not a disaster. In return, Noah pushed his teammates and got them to believe they could still win without their leaders. Gibson has become a force on both ends of the floor and will be in the running for the Sixth Man of the Year award, an honor he said would be a "dream come true," given how much work he has put into his offensive game.

After being waived early in the season by the Toronto Raptors, D.J. Augustin has been described as a "season saver" by teammates and coaches for the way he scores and runs the offense. He runs the offense better than Nate Robinson did last season and gets his teammates better shots in the rhythm of the offense.

Kirk Hinrich has stayed relatively healthy after battling injuries the past two seasons. He also has been a steadying veteran presence on and off the floor. Jimmy Butler may not be the offensive threat that Deng was, but he is just as solid defensively. Like Deng, he enjoys the challenge of guarding the opposition's best player each night.

Mike Dunleavy struggled at the beginning of the season in his new surroundings, but has bounced back well and shown why he he has succeeded in the NBA for over a decade. While he isn't shooting as well as Marco Belinelli from beyond the arc, he is a better all-around player. He fits into what Thibodeau wants to do and the veteran coach trusts him.

Veteran Carlos Boozer has regressed this season, but Gibson has been so solid that it hasn't mattered. Nazr Mohammed hasn't played enough big minutes to have that much of an impact. Rookie Tony Snell has shown glimpses of promise but hasn't gotten into the rotation on a consistent basis.

While the group wasn't built to play without Rose and Deng, Thibodeau has found a way to make it work. That's why his team continues to succeed and it's why he should win another Coach of the Year award at the end of the season.

Noah leads the way again late

March, 5, 2014
Mar 5
11:22
PM CT
Friedell By Nick Friedell
ESPNChicago.com
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AUBURN HILLS, Mich. -- Tony Snell played only two minutes in Wednesday night's 105-94 win over the Detroit Pistons, but he smiled from ear to ear as he got dressed in front of his locker while recounting his most important play of the night.

It came with 5:47 remaining right after a timeout was called and his team had finally seized control. That's when Joakim Noah, the player who was on the way to his second triple-double in three games, happily raced toward Snell for a celebratory do-over.

[+] EnlargeJoakim Noah
AP Photo/Carlos OsorioJoakim Noah earned his second triple-double in three games, and even got the chest bump he wanted from teammate Tony Snell.
Toward the end of last Friday night's comeback win over the Dallas Mavericks, the same situation presented itself. Noah came bounding over to Snell in hopes the rookie would meet him in the air for a chest bump. Only as Noah raced over, Snell wanted no part of the exchange. He turned as Noah jumped in the air and left the All-Star center hanging. Noah was not happy about it and turned in disgust. The missed connection caught the eye of plenty of fans on Twitter and gained national exposure as part of the "SportsCenter" highlight package that night.

"People were like, 'Why didn't you give him the chest bump?'" Snell said Wednesday night. "Some of my old college teammates, they know why, because I don't do stuff like that. Some people were like, 'Why did you get so mad with the chest bump?' So I tried to keep him happy, tried to do the chest bump."

This time there was no doubt in Snell's mind what was going to happen. As Noah made his way toward him, Snell knew exactly what to do.

"I saw him coming," Snell said. "He pointed at me and was like, 'OK, chest bump.'"

Noah, who took to Twitter last Saturday to say he loved the Bulls' rookies and that they would work on their celebrations, laughed while recounting the latest chest bump with Snell.

"I was happy," Noah said. "[The last one] was bad. I'm happy he worked on it and it worked out well."

(Read full post)

Bulls roll past Nuggets for 5th straight win

February, 22, 2014
Feb 22
12:23
AM CT
Friedell By Nick Friedell
ESPNChicago.com
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CHICAGO -- To understand the level at which the Chicago Bulls dominated the Denver Nuggets during Friday night's 28-point blowout win, just take a look at how the Nuggets head coach described his team's performance after the game had come to its merciful conclusion.

[+] EnlargeD.J. Augustin
AP Photo/Charles Rex ArbogastD.J. Augustin led Chicago with 22 points, but the Bulls used a balanced scoring attack throughout to take down the Nuggets.
"I told our team that I wish paychecks were predicated on night-to-night performance," Brian Shaw said. "If you play like a star on a given night, you get paid as a star. If you play like an uninspired player, then either you don't get paid or you get paid like an uninspired player. You can't pick and choose when you want. [Thursday] night we play Milwaukee, who is obviously down players. They have injuries, they have been playing all season long and we act like the big bad wolf against Milwaukee. Then we come in tonight in a nationally televised game against the Bulls and we tuck our tails, and we hide."

The Bulls broke Denver's spirit early in this game. They controlled the tempo and executed Tom Thibodeau's plan on both ends of the floor. Joakim Noah, Taj Gibson and D.J. Augustin led the way as usual, but the production was spread out throughout the game. Tony Snell racked up 20 points after Jimmy Butler went down with a rib injury. Kirk Hinrich and Mike Dunleavy played their usual steady games. This performance was one of the Bulls' best all-around contests of the season and pushed their winning streak to five games.

As a group, this team is playing with more confidence than at any other point this season. So how did this happen? How did the Bulls find continuity in the middle of what many believed to be another lost season without Derrick Rose and Luol Deng?

"I think everybody's comfortable with their roles," Noah said. "Everybody knows what to expect from each other. I think our defense is getting better. The ball movement was really, really good tonight. I think it's just going to keep getting better. It all starts with our mindset as a team -- I think we're gaining a lot of confidence and it's all positive."

To Noah's point, the Bulls are playing with a free-flowing rhythm that hasn't been seen all year. They are coming out in games and crushing spirits -- a common trait in the Thibodeau era -- but one that hasn't been seen much this year. The Bulls led 32-19 after the first quarter and have pounded teams early and often over the past couple weeks.

"We're just setting the tone early," Gibson said. "Letting the other team know we're here to play. Letting them know that it's going to be a long night. That's the kind of solid basketball that we're accustomed to playing. We've been playing like that the last couple of years."

The Bulls have gone back to their principles. They are hitting teams hard, playing solid defense and running sets as precisely as ever. It's a stunning turnaround for a team that was left for dead a couple years ago and now heads into a showdown with a familiar foe on Sunday afternoon in the Miami Heat. It's a game that many in the locker room are looking forward to because their confidence level is so high. Each time the Bulls hit the floor they expect to win -- and Thibodeau has them believing the winning will continue for a while.

"We're just feeling good right now," Gibson said. "We're playing together as a team. Everybody's smiling, everybody's just going hard for each other, and it shows."

Rapid Reaction: Bulls 117, Nuggets 89

February, 21, 2014
Feb 21
9:49
PM CT
Friedell By Nick Friedell
ESPNChicago.com
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CHICAGO -- Let's take a quick look at how the Chicago Bulls cruised to a 117-89 win over the Denver Nuggets on Friday night at the United Center.

How it happened: D.J. Augustin had another big night for the Bulls, going off for 22 points, eight assists and five rebounds as Chicago earned one of its easiest victories of the season. Tony Snell added 20 points while Joakim Noah rattled off 14 points, 11 rebounds and five assists. Randy Foye led the Nuggets with 23 points but it wasn't enough for a Denver team that got beat up the floor all night. The Bulls have now won five games in a row.

What it means: The Bulls' offense was clicking on all cylinders in this one. They set the tone early and kept rolling most of the night. Noah and Augustin continue to lead the way, but it's the play of Snell that has to please Tom Thibodeau the most right now. He was much more assertive -- a characteristic that he may need to show more given that Jimmy Butler injured his ribs late in the first quarter and never returned. If Snell keeps showing he can shoot like this, it won't be as tough of a transition if Butler is out for an extended amount of time.

Hits: Taj Gibson chipped in with another double-double -- 15 points and 10 rebounds.

Misses: Carlos Boozer was just 4-for-14 from the field.

Stat of the night: The Bulls shot 50 percent from the field and 58.8 percent from the 3-point line.

What's next: The Bulls square off against the Miami Heat on Sunday afternoon.

3 Points: More Boozer down the stretch?

February, 6, 2014
Feb 6
11:14
AM CT
By ESPNChicago.com
ESPNChicago.com
Carlos BoozerThearon W. Henderson/Getty ImagesWith Taj Gibson's offensive game developing, Carlos Boozer is spending more time on the bench in the fourth quarter.
Every week, ESPNChicago.com Bulls writer Nick Friedell is joined by two other ESPN writers to weigh in on three questions that are on the minds of Chicago Bulls followers.

1. Does Carlos Boozer deserve more playing time late in games?


Friedell: No. He's a poor defender. Why would Tom Thibodeau change his strategy now? Especially since Taj Gibson is much better offensively this season.

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Discuss (Total votes: 1,759)

Jon Greenberg: Depends on the situation, and how both he and Gibson are playing. I don't really begrudge Boozer for speaking his mind. You want players to have that kind of confidence and chip on their shoulder. It's good for the spirit. Once upon a time, you figure Boozer would get the nod if the Bulls needed offense and his jumper was wet. Gibson would get more time if the Bulls needed his defense. But Gibson is showcasing a more potent offensive game nowadays, so it's not quite that clear anymore. Boozer can see the writing on the wall as far as next year goes. Still, it's a mistake to mark this as a black-or-white situation. The Bulls' offense is mostly very effective when Boozer is on the floor. There are times when I think Thibodeau should be playing Boozer late in the game. But it's a case-by-case basis.

Scoop Jackson: That's a tough one. To me, that's a game-to-game decision, not a preconceived or predetermined rotation decision made by a coach who has nothing to do with the "feel" of the game that is being played at that moment. With the Bulls, Boozer has had some good fourth quarters, and he's had some not-so-good ones. That's kinda been his M.O., as has it been Thibs' to not play him much in fourth quarters in their four years together. Honestly, I think with just about any other coach in the league, looking at Booz's offensive numbers, he'd be in games at the end. But to Thibs, defense wins games. And until there's a different overall defensive commitment from Booz, "it is what it is" is going to continue.


2. Who will end up being a better NBA player, Jimmy Butler or Tony Snell?


[+] EnlargeTony Snell
AP Photo/Chris CarlsonRookie Tony Snell has shown the potential to be a solid shooter with a quick release.
Friedell: Both players are very hard workers. They live in the gym and spend hours working on their games. But if I had to choose the player with the higher upside right now, it would be Snell. That's because he's a better pure shooter and will get even better defensively with time. Butler can still be a very solid player, but Snell has a better shooting touch.

Greenberg: I think Butler will be the more complete, well-rounded player, but Snell could really carve out a niche for himself as a dead-eye shooter. I know he can do more than shoot, but his release is so smooth and so quick, as a spot-up shooter, he's going to be a problem for defenses for years to come. Butler's scoring hasn't picked up like we thought it would, but he's a go-to defender with attitude. He has the benefit of experience right now, and I think his personality lends itself to a more assertive role defensively than Snell, who sometimes seems as if his head is swimming with details. I'll have to see Snell in two years to really judge them against each other, but I'll still go with Jimmy for now.

Jackson: Depends on who stays with Thibs the longest. LOL. I can't see both players being here that much longer. In the greater scheme of the Bulls' rebuild, one is probably going to be gone within the next year or two. I think Tony has a slight edge as far as offensive aggressiveness goes, and right now, that is something the Bulls are looking for. But Jimmy is still a much better defensive player, and he probably always will be because his game is not predicated on how much he scores. So "better" player to me is subjective in that Butler could end up being another Shawn Marion and Snell another Kevin Martin. Which one of those two is better?


3. Will the Bulls be able to afford D.J. Augustin next season?


[+] EnlargeDJ Augustin
AP Photo/Matt YorkD.J. Augustin has rejuvenated his career with the Bulls, averaging 10.8 points and 4.6 assists this season.
Friedell: Given how the rest of their cap situation will likely unfold, it appears the answer right now would be no. It all depends on what other teams are willing to pay Augustin. Thibs loves what he has done since coming to Chicago, but he also has a track record of getting everything he can out of almost every point guard who has come through not named Marquis Teague. The Bulls would like to keep Augustin, but it has to be at their price.

Greenberg: No. His one-year fellowship in the Thibs PG Academy will end after the playoffs. Augustin doesn't want to back up Rose, and we don't yet know if Derrick Rose would want to play more off the ball to make room for Augustin. I imagine he wouldn't throw a fit about such a move, but the point is going to be moot when teams offer Augustin a solid, multiyear contract based on his play this season. This was the perfect opportunity for Augustin, filling in on a veteran-laden, serious-minded team with a basketball genius at the helm. And Augustin has been much better than expected. I think he'll find himself a nice deal next season and the Bulls will have to find another backup for Rose who can start as well. Just in case.

Jackson: They'll have to. Unless they have someone else in mind to replace him. Look, the one thing they cannot afford again is what happened to them by not re-signing Nate Robinson (even though he did recently tear his ACL and is out for the season.) What the Bulls can't afford is to be left thin at the point position in case Rose goes down again and they are left scrambling to salvage a season by finding a replacement point guard on the fly. As well as he's playing, no one is saying that D.J. is the end-all-be-all, but regardless of how much he may demand (within reason, of course), the Bulls have to overpay someone to be their insurance policy. Why not him?

Eyes wide open for X factor Snell

January, 19, 2014
Jan 19
9:00
AM CT
Padilla By Doug Padilla
ESPNChicago.com
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CHICAGO – Sleep isn’t coming as easily to Tony Snell these days -- though that's not to say the Chicago Bulls backup wing has been stressing of late.

In fact, Snell has continued to take advantage of an extreme bump in playing time dating to late November, when Derrick Rose was lost for the season with a knee injury.

In Saturday's 103-78 victory over the Philadelphia 76ers, Snell logged 30 minutes after playing 26 the night before at Washington. He's hit double digits in minutes in each of his past seven games, and scored in double digits in four.

[+] EnlargeTony Snell, Evan Turner
David Banks/USA TODAY SportsMore minutes seem to be agreeing with rookie Tony Snell, but NBA life is proving a challenge.
Hard work like that should lead just about anybody into a deep sleep, but the rookie from the University of New Mexico said he is still trying to make adjustments to life in the NBA.

“The traveling is kind of getting to me,” said Snell, who admitted to taking a long soak in the cold tub immediately after Saturday's victory. “I’m kind of losing my sleep. It’s hard for me to sleep at night so I’m just trying to take care of my body.”

With 33 NBA games under his belt, Snell has essentially played a full college season already. And one look at the schedule shows that a significant break isn’t coming anytime soon, unless the five days off for All-Star weekend in February counts.

Snell isn’t worried about it.

“I haven’t hit a wall yet because I’m in the training room trying to take care of my body and make sure my body is right,” he said.

Snell’s numbers seem to suggest that despite sleep deprivation, he is actually getting better. He is averaging 5.9 points per game, though that number is 9.6 for his most recent five, including a 13-point performance Saturday.

“I feel pretty good,” Snell said of his body of work since his minutes increased. “I’m learning every day and trying to strive to get better every day. I’m trying to learn to play with my teammates, trust each other and also try to take advantage.”

While points are nice, Snell’s playing time figures to be predicated on his ability to guard the opponent. And his play on both ends has given the Bulls a huge boost.

“We just have to keep getting better defensively, because when we get stops then we can go out there and run with the shooting we have on the court right now,” center Joakim Noah said. “The rookie Tony Snell, he’s been playing really big for us stretching the court. He’s definitely the X factor.”

Snell could sleep on that compliment -- if only he settles down at night. Until the rest returns, he’ll use all that awake time to take shots and study defense.

“My weight has been up and down but I try to stay consistent,” he said. “Honestly I just go day by day. I just try to do what I can that day and see what happens the next day.”

Rapid Reaction: Bulls 128, Magic 125 (3OT)

January, 15, 2014
Jan 15
9:36
PM CT
Friedell By Nick Friedell
ESPNChicago.com
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ORLANDO -- Let's take a quick look at how the Chicago Bulls scratched out a 128-125 win in triple overtime over the Orlando Magic on Wednesday night at Amway Center.

How it happened: Joakim Noah had 26 points, 19 rebounds and six assists as the Bulls came back from a 15-point deficit to pick up the victory. Carlos Boozer added 23 points. And Jimmy Butler chipped in with 21 points, seven rebounds and six assists in 60 minutes of play. Victor Oladipo had a huge game for the Magic, going off for 35 points, eight assists and four rebounds in 57 minutes of play; but he couldn't keep Orlando from folding down the stretch.

What it means: Tom Thibodeau has to hate the way his team played for the first three quarters, but he must love the way the Bulls closed. The Bulls looked disinterested throughout much of regulation. But they played hard when it mattered most. Noah made some huge defensive plays. And the Bulls got some clutch shooting from a variety of sources, including rookie Tony Snell, who hit a couple of big shots down the stretch. Thibodeau and his players will take great pride in this one given how much effort they invested into it late.

Hits: D.J. Augustin had 19 points, nine assists and five rebounds off the bench for the Bulls.

Misses: Kirk Hinrich and Mike Dunleavy were a combined 6-for-22 from the field. (But Dunleavy did hit the three-pointer that sent this game into a second overtime period.)

Stat of the night: The Bulls were 1-for-12 from the 3-point arc in the first half. They were 11-for-21 from distance the rest of the game.

What's next: The Bulls head to D.C. to face off against the Washington Wizards on Friday night.

Rapid Reaction: Wizards 102, Bulls 88

January, 13, 2014
Jan 13
9:42
PM CT
Friedell By Nick Friedell
ESPNChicago.com
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CHICAGO -- Let's take a quick look at how the Washington Wizards earned a 102-88 win over the Chicago Bulls on Monday night at the United Center.

How it happened: Nene had 19 points, five rebounds and five assists to lead the Wizards to a victory that snapped the Bulls' five-game winning streak. John Wall added 19 points, seven assists and five rebounds for the Wizards. Carlos Boozer had 19 points to lead the Bulls, but it wasn't enough for a team that struggled to score all night.

What it means: This game looked a lot like the games the Bulls were playing a few weeks ago. They allowed the Wizards to get a solid lead, then couldn't score enough to get all the way back in the game. For all the goodwill the Bulls built up in the past two weeks because of their winning streak, the reality is that this team still has a major problem scoring points. When its defense isn't on point -- and it wasn't Monday -- these kinds of losses will happen.

Hits: Tony Snell had 12 points off the bench and looked much more aggressive on the offensive end.

Misses: D.J. Augustin was just 2-for-11 shooting.

Stat of the night: The Wizards shot 52 percent from the field.

What's next: The Bulls head to Orlando to face off against the Magic on Wednesday night.

Rapid Reaction: Bulls 103, Bobcats 97

January, 11, 2014
Jan 11
9:30
PM CT
Friedell By Nick Friedell
ESPNChicago.com
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CHICAGO -- Let's take a quick look at how the Chicago Bulls earned a 103-97 win over the Charlotte Bobcats on Saturday night at the United Center.

How it happened: D.J. Augustin led the Bulls with 20 points and 12 assists, while Joakim Noah had another big night, going off for 19 points, 14 rebounds and four assists. Mike Dunleavy added 17 points and six rebounds as the Bulls played one of their most offensively balanced games of the season. Gerald Henderson led the Bobcats with 30 points, but it wasn't enough to beat a Bulls team that has now won five games in a row.

What it means: The Bulls built up a 15-point lead in this one and almost gave it back. The reason they didn't is they played with the type of balance that Tom Thibodeau has been hoping to see for weeks. They made the extra pass and found each other looks down the stretch. With the Luol Deng trade still hovering over their heads, the Bulls have put together one of their best runs of the season in that they continue to win in different ways. On this night, it was the offensive rhythm that made the difference.

Hits: Playing in his first contest as a Bull, Cartier Martin looked impressive in 26 minutes, scoring 11 points on 4-for-5 shooting.

Misses: Tony Snell started the game but missed the only two shots he took in 17 minutes.

Stat of the night: The Bulls had seven players in double figures.

What's next: The Bulls take on the Washington Wizards on Monday night.

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TEAM LEADERS

POINTS
Derrick Rose
PTS AST STL MIN
15.9 4.3 0.5 31.1
OTHER LEADERS
ReboundsJ. Noah 11.3
AssistsJ. Noah 5.4
StealsJ. Butler 1.9
BlocksJ. Noah 1.5