LAS VEGAS -- When young players come to Tony Snell and ask for advice about playing for Tom Thibodeau, the second-year swingman has a simple answer.
"I just tell them you've got to work hard every day," Snell said recently. "Thibs likes hard workers and just keep grinding."
The soft-spoken 2013 first-round pick out of New Mexico earned praise from the Bulls' coaching staff last season for his work ethic and professionalism. He just had a hard time translating the extra work from practice into the actual performance when the games started. But if the first few days of the Vegas Summer League are any indication, Snell continues to take his own advice to heart.
He already looks different. Snell said he's added 10 pounds to his frame since the end of last season. He also ditched the cornrows that he has had his entire life. The difference in his play is what has impressed his teammates and coaches on the floor. He is shooting the ball with more confidence, looks much more comfortable on the floor and is leading the Vegas Summer League in scoring at 25 points a game.
"He's been our solid guy," Bulls assistant and summer league head coach Adrian Griffin said. "That gets us a bucket when we need it ... Tony's continued to get better and improving. It's good to see him rewarded for all the hard work that he's put in in the last couple of months."
The people who see Snell go to work every day can see that the 22-year-old is trying to take the next step in his career. The Bulls hope Snell can elevate his game the way Jimmy Butler did during his second season.
"I always say the confidence comes from the work you put in," Griffin said. "That's one thing Tony has been doing all summer starting from last season. He's just constantly in the gym, constantly in the weight room trying to get bigger, work on his game, and it's paying off for him. The thing I always say about the NBA is that game is over with and you've got to get ready for the next game. We want to see how he does over the long haul but so far, so good."
The Bulls are optimistic that Snell can become a consistent rotation player this season. They've always been high on his defensive ability and believe the added confidence will help his shooting and all-around game. For now, Snell is just trying to keep his focus on getting better each day as he prepares for his second NBA season.
"Just stay in the weight room," he said. "Try to get stronger every day. Just keep getting a lot of reps up in the gym."