Bulls get healthier with Thomas set to return


Oct 16

By Adam Fluck

Yes, the Bulls are 4-1 in the exhibition season so far. That’s more wins than the Lakers, Cavs, Nuggets and Spurs have recorded. But wins and losses mean very little until the regular season begins.

For the Bulls, three of those wins have come without Derrick Rose (right ankle) and Tyrus Thomas (right hip), who have not played since Oct. 2 in Indiana. In other words, getting healthy has become the top priority for the team.

Thomas_091016 Earlier this week, Head Coach Vinny Del Negro said he hoped both players would be ready to practice on Thursday. Thomas was on the floor for the duration of the session and is expected to be back in action tonight, when the Bulls host the Minnesota Timberwolves (7 p.m. | CSN-Chicago). As of Thursday, Del Negro had not yet decided if Thomas would start, but he did talk about his impact on the game and what he needs from the fourth-year forward.

“He’s just got to get back in shape,” he said. “He’s been out a little bit, and he needs to get the flow back offensively and defensively. He’ll pick his spots, be our shot blocker, run the court, and make open 15-footers. If he runs the court with his athleticism and gets after it defensively, he gives us a big boost.”

As his minutes have gradually increased over his first three seasons, so have Thomas’ numbers. Last year, he averaged career-highs in points (10.8), rebounds (6.4) and blocks (1.9). Though his scoring was slightly down in the postseason at 9.6 ppg, his productivity otherwise increased across the board, with 6.3 rebounds and a team-high and NBA postseason-high 2.86 blocks per game.

The 23-year old Baton Rouge native is fully aware that greater expectations lie upon his shoulders this season, and he says he’s ready to embrace them.

“If you aren’t expecting big things out of yourself, I don’t see the point in playing,” he said. But does he envision himself as a 20-point, 10-rebound player?

“I feel like that is something I can do, but first I have to figure out my role on this team,” said Thomas. “As far as the offensive end, I need to figure out where I’m going to get my shots. On the defensive end, definitely ten [rebounds per game].”

As for Rose, he did not progress enough to practice on Thursday. He ran before riding a stationary bike courtside during practice and is listed as doubtful for Friday’s contest.

“Unfortunately, Derrick didn’t feel as well as I had hoped,” said Del Negro.

Brad Miller, who missed the last two games with the flu, also returned to practice and will likely play tonight.

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