Updated: April 2, 2014 11:35PM
ATLANTA — Tony Snell looked like a playoff-rotation performer when the Bulls were re-establishing themselves as contenders in the wake of Derrick Rose’s injury and Luol Deng’s departure. But he’s going to have to re-earn that role.
The 6-7 guard from New Mexico, who started 12 games in the first half of the season and averaged seven points in 22 minutes in a 12-game stretch after Deng was traded, has become a bit player as the Bulls head to the finish of the regular season.
Coming into the game Wednesday night against the Atlanta Hawks, Snell had played only 7.3 minutes and scored 11 total points in his previous nine games.
Coach Tom Thibodeau’s advice: ‘‘Stay ready.’’
‘‘He’s got to show he can play defense and make shots. We have to be able to count on him,’’ Thibodeau said. ‘‘You’ve got to be consistent, be able to do things day in and day out. Those are things he has to improve on.’’
Thibodeau is giving Snell a chance to earn his spot. He was the second man off the bench against the Hawks in the first quarter and made two three-pointers in a seven-minute stint. Snell had been 0-for-5 on three-pointers in his previous six games.
The Bulls lost Rose for the season because of a knee injury and have changed their starting lineup 27 times, but they have a chance to go into the playoffs with some consistency.
Thibodeau started the lineup of Kirk Hinrich, Jimmy Butler, Joakim Noah, Carlos Boozer and Mike Dunleavy for the 13th consecutive time. That lineup has played 33 games (with a record of 23-10), the most starts for any lineup in Thibodeau’s four seasons.
It’s the longest starting-lineup streak in the Thibodeau era.
In fact, it’s the longest streak since the 1995-96 season, when the lineup of Michael Jordan, Scottie Pippen, Luc Longley, Ron Harper and Dennis Rodman started 27 consecutive games — and went 26-1.
Ups and downs
On Jan. 1, the Hawks were 18-14 and without Al Horford; the Bulls were 12-18 and without Rose. Since then, the Bulls have gone 31-14; the Hawks are 14-28.
Do teams like the Hawks wonder how the Bulls do it?
‘‘We don’t wonder why — we know why,’’ Hawks All-Star forward Paul Millsap said.
‘‘Their defense is one of the [best] in the league. You play defense, you’re going to give yourself a chance to win every game. That’s what they’ve been doing.’’