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Maturity the big difference for Bulls' Thomas

Within Tyrus Thomas' few words Tuesday, it was apparent that the young Bulls forward's summer growth was not limited to the muscle he added to his now 6-9, 233-pound frame.

Thomas was often seen as moody and unmotivated by Bulls coaches, staff and media last season when casual conversation with him could be as tough to come by as a week's worth of games in which he was among the team's best players.
 
Thomas, now in his third season, banged heads with coach Scott Skiles and even interim Jim Boylan even more than he did the boards.

He also was suspended for missing a practice in what was his protest to a lack of playing time.

''I'm making big strides,'' Thomas said after the Bulls' three-hour-plus practice. ''I've come to camp in the best shape I've ever been. Mentally I was just prepared for this season. Just trying to train myself to tune different things out, whether it be negativity from outside sources, inside, whatever it may be that gets me frustrated or upset.

''It's just more maturity, growing up and knowing everything is not going to go your way. Just have to learn how to face adversity, when it's not going your way. Then you have to grab hold of it when it is. This is my job. I love basketball, I'd do it for free. But this is my job. So you have to approach it like that.''

Thomas, the fourth overall selection in the 2006 draft, credits David Thorpe and the staff of IMG Academy in Bradenton, Fla. -- where Thomas and Luol Deng spent time over summer -- for his attitude adjustment.

''They did a great job with me overall; my attitude and the way I approached the game, the way I handle the media,'' Thomas said. ''Just everything. They helped me become a better person.

''They did a real good job of just preparing me to be more of a professional. Not to say that I was unprofessional, but just to maximize my professionalism.''

Thomas has welcomed the chance to get a fresh start under new coach Vinny Del Negro and his staff.

''Nobody's bringing up last year or any past experience,'' Thomas said. ''The coaching staff has been great. They're excited. We're excited. It's been fairly easy. They come in and tell us what they want to see, and we do it. We've been playing ball long enough to adjust.''

Del Negro said adjusting to the NBA is not always easy. Particularly for one who left school early as did Thomas, who was drafted as a redshirt freshman from LSU.

''People think just because they put on a professional jersey, whether the Bulls or any other team, all of a sudden they're pro players,'' Del Negro said. ''Well, a lot of these guys maybe played one or two years of college. They're still young, and there's a lot of development to do. When you get to this level, you're not playing against college kids anymore. You're playing against men. It's a whole different level. These guys have to get out there and figure it out, and we have to help them do that. So there's no easy answers to these questions. You just have to keep working and finding ways to get better.''

Thomas believes one reason he didn't have production better than the 6.8 points and 4.6 rebounds he averaged last season was lack of playing time.

''Consistency is going to come with consistent minutes,'' he said. ''You can't play 30 minutes three nights in a row, then play five minutes and say, 'He's inconsistent.' I feel like if I get the opportunity, I can show it for long stretches. You've seen me come into the United Center and do it for five, six games in a row. Then I don't play for five or six games. To me, that's not inconsistency, it's just a lack of opportunity.'' 

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