AL HAMNIK: Skinny jokes aside, Bulls' rookie Tony Snell carries some weight

2013-12-07T18:00:00Z 2013-12-09T15:05:05Z AL HAMNIK: Skinny jokes aside, Bulls' rookie Tony Snell carries some weightAl Hamnik Times Columnist nwitimes.com
December 07, 2013 6:00 pm  • 

CHICAGO | Tony Snell's heard his share of "skinny" jokes growing up.

He can stand sideways in the rain and not get wet.

He looks like a yardstick with legs.

When he wears a black suit, he resembles a closed umbrella.

The one-liners were nonstop until the Bulls made the 6-foot-7, 200-pound Snell their first-round draft pick (20th overall) and began starting him at shooting guard in place of the injured Jimmy Butler.

Surprise, surprise. This kid has game.

Think of the former New Mexico standout as Scottie Pippen with training wheels.

Snell made his sixth start Saturday night against the Pistons and came in averaging 5 points a game while shooting 42.3 percent from beyond the arc, second best on the Bulls behind Mike Dunleavy.

In five previous starts, Snell averaged 10.8 points on 51 percent shooting and had given the team a stable figure in the starting lineup with Derrick Rose lost again for the season.

Here's the grabber: Snell doesn't play like a rook. He's shown the patience and poise of a veteran with only nine turnovers in 191 minutes.

"Working hard every day gives me the confidence to stay ready," Snell said. "There's no reason to be nervous if you put the hours in."

He had eight points in Thursday's 20-point blowout of the defending champion Heat while occasionally teaming with Luol Deng to guard LeBron James, a challenge Snell welcomed.

"I feel like if I'm on the same floor with everybody else, then I'm good enough to play," he said.

Like that attitude, that swagger? So do the Bulls.

"Each day, you can see him growing," coach Tom Thibodeau said. "The thing I'm most pleased with is the way he works and his attitude and approach. And he'll get better. He's unselfish. He plays for the team.

"If he makes a mistake, he tries to correct it and not make it twice. And winning is important to him."

With the snake-bitten Rose out of the picture, Snell could impact the Bulls season and their short bench when Butler returns from a turf toe injury.

Thibodeau insists "we have enough to win," as he did all last season, and he could be partly right if Snell's game takes off and doesn't go south like it does so often for NBA newbies.

"I've been waiting to show people I can do more than just shoot the ball," Snell said. "I can make plays and do a lot of other stuff."

It's his ability to drain the 3, however, that's gold.

In 104 games at New Mexico, Snell shot nearly 40 percent from dark shadows, his percentage increasing each season.

Other than the proven Dunleavy, Snell is the Bulls' best shooter from deep in a league that thrives on the 3-ball.

As for the 'skinny' jokes, it's time to move on.

"I've been staying in the weight room. It's not how I look, it's how I feel," he said. "I feel a lot stronger than before. People who don't know me would be surprised how much I can endure."

Another Scottie Pippen? I doubt it.

But Tony Snell, No. 20 in your program, won't be a bust like some Bulls picks in the past. That I know.

This column solely represents the writer's opinion. Reach him at al.hamnik@nwi.com.

Copyright 2014 nwitimes.com. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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