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Snell a bright spot in a week of gloom for Bulls

Updated: November 28, 2013 9:42PM



The basketballs were going up in the pregame shootaround, one after another.

Two shooters, two different-looking shots.

Marquis Teague’s was a line drive. Clanky. Very little room for error. Feast or famine.

Tony Snell’s was majestic. A high-arcing rainbow that seemed to be dropped from heaven after it left his hand. Even his misses were pretty.

“I’ve always shot like that because when I was young, bigger kids would block my shot,’’ Snell said of the high trajectory on his shots. “So I just started putting arc on it and never looked back. I had to do something. It’s falling for me, so I’m going to keep doing it.’’

Even if it means never playing in gyms with low ceilings.

All that matters to the Bulls these days is that it’s going in. For a team searching for something, anything, after the season-ending surgery for Derrick Rose, maybe Snell is it.

Just maybe.

“I don’t want to say the coach’s name, but he always tells me, ‘You don’t want to learn about two through 12 [on your roster],’ ’’ Clippers coach Doc Rivers said last week when discussing the Rose situation and what his former assistant Tom Thibodeau was facing. “But you will. You’ll find out some stuff. I think you always discover one guy maybe that wasn’t playing a lot. You’ll find that guy, and Tom will find that guy, whoever that is.’’

For now, it has been Snell.

Drafted 20th in the first round last June, the swingman from New Mexico was put in the starting lineup against the Jazz and again Wednesday night against the Pistons.

Utah was his baptism, but the victory over the Pistons might have been his breakout. He scored 13 points and went 3-for-5 from three-point range. For a team that’s 24th in the league at 32.5 percent from three-point range, Snell could be a huge boost.

“Not rushing things,’’ Snell said of his recent success. “Being more patient out there because before, I would start rushing, but I’m starting to calm down my pace. Just pacing.

“I’m just seeing more the more I’m out there. The more I’m out there, the more comfortable I’m getting.’’

Thibodeau likes Snell’s focus.

“The best thing about him is how serious he is,’’ Thibodeau said. “Even when he wasn’t playing, his getting ready to play told me how serious he was. The questions he asked. On game days at home, he just stays in the arena. He’s there all the time. Those type of guys, when they get opportunities, they’re ready and usually take advantage.’’

It’s helped that Snell has had teammates to lean on, specifically Jimmy Butler and Luol Deng.

“Tony can shoot the ball well,’’ Deng said. “I’m just trying to get him to know the characteristics and what’s going on in the game: guys he’s guarding, what are their tendencies, how you can beat them.

“He’s just going to keep getting better. He’s just a rookie. It’s just tough. There’s a lot of stuff out there, and I think he’ll learn it.’’

No one is fooling themselves into thinking that the 6-7 Snell will suddenly make up for Rose’s loss. No one on the roster can do that. But he could cushion it a bit. He could help make the Bulls a middle seed in the playoffs, rather than a lower seed.

In a week of doom and gloom, he’s at least something to grab on to.

“It sucks that we’ve lost a franchise player like D-Rose; he’s our leader,’’ Snell said. “But at the same time, we’ve got to move forward. We can’t keep our heads down and keep feeling sorry for ourselves. It’s about heads up, move forward.’’

Email: jcowley@suntimes.com



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