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Bulls view Snell and Murphy as good fits
by Adam Fluck
Posted on Jul 1
Like most draft hopefuls, Tony Snell spent last Thursday night watching the proceedings at home with family and friends, waiting for his name to be called.
But when he received early notice that he would be heading to Chicago to play for the Bulls, owners of the 20th overall selection, he kept the news to himself, a surprising move given the elation that moment must have delivered.
“I wanted to see it on the screen and hear it for myself,” said Snell. “When they called my name, I was speechless. I let the TV do the talking because they could have called someone else’s name.”
Fast forward to Monday and Snell’s dream of becoming an NBA player was finally starting to materialize. That’s when he and Erik Murphy, who Chicago selected with the 49th pick, were introduced at the Berto Center by General Manager Gar Forman and Head Coach Tom Thibodeau.
“It’s a blessing,” said Snell. “I thank God everyday for giving me the opportunity to put on a Bulls jersey. I’ve been watching the Bulls ever since I was a little kid. It means a whole lot to me.”
Forman touched on the detailed nature of the scouting process, saying that the team’s feeling throughout the season and into the NBA Draft Combine, whether it was watching film, conducting background checks by talking with former coaches or personal interaction, was that both players would be a perfect fit on a lot of levels.
“The first thing that is so important to Tom, myself and everybody on our staff is that these guys we feel both have the makeup and character we look for in players,” explained Forman. “They’re both going to be workers; they both come from winning programs. We dug deep into their background as far as high school coaches, AAU coaches and college coaches, and everything we heard about these guys was extremely positive.”
Snell and Murphy also address the Bulls’ desire to improve shooting the ball from the outside.
“Both of these guys have shown they can make perimeter shots, three-point shots at a high, high level,” said Forman. “Whatever their ceiling is, they’ll reach it because of their work ethic.”
Forman envisions Snell possibly getting some time at point guard as a “secondary handler,” a player able to help push the ball in transition while also possessing the ability to play the pick-and-roll.
Snell’s offseason priorities include getting stronger and better conditioned, and he hopes his new teammates — including Kirk Hinrich, whom he met on Monday — will help in showing him the ropes.
“I expect to learn from the veterans, try to pick up on the plays and work as hard as I can and learn as much as I can,” said Snell.
One of Snell’s greatest physical attributes is his wingspan, which measures nearly seven-feet. Along with his length – Snell is listed at 6-7, 200-pounds – that will bode well when it comes to defending in the NBA.
“I’ve got long arms and I like to use them to help get deflections, rebounds and steals,” acknowledged Snell, who didn’t have to look far before running into one of the game’s all-time great defenders and an idol of his to boot.
“I followed Scottie Pippen, who is like my same height and same wingspan. I tried to watch his game,” said Snell. “I met him today and I was speechless. That’s Scottie Pippen, a Hall of Famer. It was pretty great. Definitely, he can help me get better and teach me what I need to work on.”
Given Snell was a first round pick, his rookie contract will be guaranteed. However, that’s not the case with Murphy, who will have to earn his way on to the roster. Both players will begin workouts at the Berto Center this week and play on the Bulls’ summer league team in Las Vegas later this month.
But Forman is encouraged by what Murphy brings to the table.
“We really haven’t had a guy that’s a stretch four,” said Forman. “We think as he continues to progress, it will give us an ability to space the floor.”
Murphy, a 6-10, 230-pound forward, hasn’t had specific conversations with Bulls management or coaches about what he needs to do to land a spot, but he has a good idea of where to start.
“Obviously, I just have to continue to improve—defensively, rebounding, getting stronger,” said Murphy. “Every aspect of my game I think I can improve. If I do that, whatever happens, happens, but I think I’ll be alright.”
One Bulls player who will be in his corner is fellow Florida Gator Joakim Noah, who reached out to him on draft night to extend his well wishes.
“He was real excited, as was I,” said Murphy of the phone call. “He gets real fired up, and he was pretty fired up.”
Murphy has taken note of Noah’s passion and energy, and perhaps he’ll apply some of that to his own game.
“I think he might have the highest motor in the NBA, it’s arguable,” said Murphy of Noah. “When he comes back to school, you see the way he works and the way he plays. It’s definitely an inspiration. It gets you going a little bit and I think that’s good. When you play with him and play against him, it brings it out in you because you have to stay at that level to compete with him.”
Murphy’s father, Jay, played in the NBA from 1984 to 1988, when he enjoyed stints with the Bullets and Clippers. When Erik was around 13 years old, Jay asked him if he wanted to take basketball seriously. Erik said yes, of course, and the rest is history.
“He’s the one that kind of showed me how to work hard and taught me the game,” said Murphy of his father.
As both Snell and Murphy embark on the next chapter of their basketball careers, a learning curve will certainly come into play. But as Thibodeau knows, it’s a process that will have to take place.
“We want them to be complete players; we want them to fit in,” said Thibodeau. “I think there’s a big adjustment going from college to pros. The first part is the work part. They have to learn how to become pros first, then they have to learn our system, and then they have to learn the NBA. So there’s a learning curve. But we think they’re both great workers and it will be a great fit.”