Thomas finding way to make impact

With Joakim Noah injured, Malcolm Thomas has become an important role player for the Bulls. Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

CHICAGO -- He wasn't exactly running through a dark forest without a flashlight, but Malcolm Thomas he did have to feel his way around Tuesday night.

While still trying to learn the Chicago Bulls' system, Thomas was pressed into duty for his first extended minutes against the Toronto Raptors and offered reasons to be intrigued.

The San Diego State product, who was signed for the remainder of the season after recently completing two 10-day contracts, gave 26 active minutes after playing just one minute total in his previous 10 games with the Bulls.

"He brings a lot of energy," head coach Tom Thibodeau said. "He doesn't know our system yet, but with his game, he is giving us more good than bad. He is still finding his way. He doesn't know what we are trying to do. He can overcome things because of his activity. He put some juice in this game when he came in."

It wasn't enough juice to fully overcome a slugging start as the Bulls rallied but fell 101-98 to the Raptors.

With a small window of time before the playoffs begin it seemed an overt decision by the coaching staff to see what they had in the 24-year-old Missouri native. And with Joakim Noah's status in question for the remainder of the regular season because of plantar fasciitis in his right foot, not to mention other injuries, finding somebody to absorb minutes is a necessity.

Thomas said he didn't know extended minutes were coming Tuesday, but he gladly took them.

"I was running the floor, rebounding, trying to block shots," Thomas said. "That's what I like to do and that's what I'm here for."

It's a matter of keeping it that simple until he can get a grasp on what the coaches need at both ends of the floor.

"I don't know (the system) that well, I'm still learning," he said. "I'm in there (working on it) every day and I'm pretty sure I'll have the whole thing down pretty soon. I have good teammates to help me out with it. I ask a lot of questions when I don't know something. I'm going to figure it out regardless."

Other than running out of regular-season minutes and the need to find somebody to play on the front court with Noah out, Thomas' time Tuesday could have also stemmed from that single minute he played against the Detroit Pistons.

Because of his high motor, he was able to score four points in that minute on a field goal and two free throws. From small beginnings came a big opportunity.

"I was ready to wait my time knowing I had a lot to learn and I have to get better," Thomas said. "But I wasn't worried about getting in. If I got in I had to be ready and I tried to be ready today."

Jimmy Butler played all 48 minutes Tuesday so he got a chance to see first-hand what Thomas was all about.

"We appreciate the high energy and his work ethic," Butler said. "He works incredibly hard and when he's given his chance he's going to show that he's a player in this league and that he's a player who is going to stay here for a while. I like the way he plays, rebounds, defends. He's learning and he will keep learning."