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Thomas wants to be in starting lineup
By Mike McGraw | Daily Herald Staff
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Published: 10/19/2009 11:00 PM

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Bulls coach Vinny Del Negro's decided to stick with rookie Taj Gibson as the starting power forward on Monday against Orlando.

It seemed a little surprising, since Tyrus Thomas returned from four games off with a hip injury to produce 22 points and 13 rebounds last Friday against Minnesota.

Was Thomas surprised he didn't start?

"A little bit, but he's the guy who makes decisions," Thomas said before the game, referring to Del Negro. "I don't even think it should be questionable, from what I've contributed to the team last season and what I did throughout camp. But like I said, he's the guy making the decisions. Whatever decision he makes, I still have to go out and play."

When Del Negro spoke to the media a short time later, he made it sound as though Thomas will start on opening night against the Spurs.

"It's just Tyrus missed a lot of time," Del Negro said. "We got in a little bit of a routine (with Gibson). I just want to stay with it right now. We have a lot of practice time before we play on Friday (against Washington), then a lot of practice time before opening night (on Oct. 29). Don't read anything into that."

Thomas wasn't nearly as good on Monday, finishing with 10 points and 3 rebounds in 26 minutes. Asked if Del Negro could be using the starting lineup as a motivational tool, Thomas said it's unnecessary.

"I think that was more Scott Skiles' deal my rookie year," Thomas said. "I'm a veteran now and I know what I have to do to be a better player and to help my team win. If it is a motivational factor, it's not needed.

"I care (about starting) because I'm a competitor. I like to win, regardless of preseason or not. I feel like I've put my time in with this team. I feel like I worked and did the things I needed to do to solidify that."

Magic punishment prep: Orlando forward Rashard Lewis spent all of Monday's game on the bench. He's fine physically, but the Magic want to practice playing without Lewis before preseason ends.

When the regular season begins, Lewis will be serving a 10-game suspension for taking a banned performance-enhancing supplement.

Orlando started former Net Ryan Anderson and journeyman Matt Barnes at forward on Monday, with Vince Carter at shooting guard and Mickael Pietrus coming off the bench.

Bull horns: John Salmons was back with the team after the birth of his daughter on Friday and turned in his best game of preseason. Salmons finished with 19 points, hitting 6 of 12 shots. - Lindsey Hunter missed his third straight game due to an illness. - Linton Johnson, who finished last season on the Bulls' roster, is now with the Magic, but did not play Monday.