Bulls

Hamilton could miss extended time with injury

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Hamilton could miss extended time with injury

PHILADELPHIA Despite his slender frame, throughout his 13-year NBA career, Bulls shooting guard Rip Hamilton has withstood the punishment of getting knocked around by much bigger men as he runs through a maze of screens, trying to get open for his patented mid-range jumper. One thing he cant shake, however, is a left-leg injury apologies for the hockey terminology, but thats how the veteran describes his ailment that has sidelined him for more games than hes suited up for in his short tenure as Derrick Roses backcourt mate.

Im just more looking at if I can go or not. I think thats the most important thing. I missed a whole lot of games earlier because of the injury. Right now, you just want to be on the floor. Thats just the bottom line. I just want to be out there, Hamilton explained prior to the Bulls morning shootaround at the Wells Fargo Center, where theyll take on the 76ers Wednesday evening. Not even just that being cautious due to the NBAs condensed schedule, just being out there and being able to play. The last game I played, it was killing me. The whole second half, I felt like I was playing on one leg and then, the next day, its 20 times worse. Its one of those things where you want to be out there I know everybody says, Look at the big picture, look at the end but its tough because you want to be out there now, you want to play now and my bodys not allowing me to play right now.

Us me and the trainer have been talking and its different because it feels good at one point in time and as soon as I start playing, its like, Boom. Come here. What do you think youre doing? Stop it. And thats the most frustrating part of the whole thing.

Its my thigh. You can say my whole leg, my whole left leg, continued Hamilton, who originally suffered a strained left groin, which was exacerbated by a left-thigh injury, apparently now the more serious of the two. Its funny because as the games going on, its just adrenaline. Its a battle of wills, youre just playing and you dont realize it until that thing just says, Hold on. What are you doing? What do you think youre doing?

Its a tiny bit better than it felt after his last game in Miami. Its not worse than since the last game because once the next day comes, once your body comes down and your adrenaline comes down, its even worse than what it was playing.

Bulls head coach Tom Thibodeau is sympathetic to Hamiltons plight, but realizes the best course of action could be to sit the native of nearby Coatesville, Pa., until he can fully contribute for a sustained period of time, instead of being in the lineup for a game or two, then having to miss time again.

Thats the tough one. Hes doing all his rehab and what we want to avoid is the in and out. Hes missed more games than hes played, so thats a big concern. So, we want to make sure that hes completely healthy, he said. Rip, hes a terrific player and he plays both ends. Im concerned about him, with this thing becoming reoccurring, so I want to make sure this time that hes completely healthy. I think a guy like that, youve just got to be careful with, so thats what were going to do.

Hamilton is even more down about missing Wednesdays contest because family and friends were excited to see him play as a member of the Bulls after his time with the Pistons ended in disappointing fashion

Its fun, but its sad in the same sense because all my family came to see me play and to be hurt, its crazy, he said. Theyre all excited about me being in Chicago and not to get an opportunity to showcase that in front of them, its tough.

Still, Hamilton is pleased with how hes adjusted to playing in Thibodeaus system and blending with his teammates when hes been on the court, as it has allowed him to display the versatility thats been often overlooked during his career.

Oh, I love it. It fits me. Got a lot of great guys, got a lot of great talent on this team, he said. I always say, When you score so good in this league, thats all people look at, at your scoring. They dont look at anything else and my whole career, I really never got a whole lot of credit, but when I was there, the coaches knew what they had, so to get an opportunity to get to show what I do here is unbelievable.

Meanwhile, Thibodeau noted that another member of the starting lineup is making gradual progress in his recovery.

Luols still out, said the coach. Well see what he can do today, did more yesterday and thats game-time.

Bulls are unlocking something with Zach LaVine: 'He was terrific'

Bulls are unlocking something with Zach LaVine: 'He was terrific'

MINNEAPOLIS—The applause was thunderous on the welcome back for Kris Dunn and Zach LaVine, two Timberwolves draft picks sent away when the chance to acquire Jimmy Butler came along.

But some of the air was taken out the Target Center due to the absence of Jimmy Butler, who’ll miss the next several weeks after deciding to have surgery on his right meniscus following an injury Friday night.

So while there was no rematch of the thrilling contest the two teams had in Chicago, some things were very much the same.

Lauri Markkanen’s struggles continued.

LaVine showed more flashes of his complete game and Dunn had a couple moments of his own.

And on the other side, Tom Thibodeau kept his starters in the game with victory secured and his team up 20 points in the Timberwolves’ 122-104 win over the Bulls Saturday night.

The Timberwolves broke the game open in the fourth quarter with some key shot-making from veteran Jamal Crawford, as he was one point short of the Timberwolves having four 20-point scorers on the night.

Jeff Teague, Karl-Anthony Towns and Andrew Wiggins combined for 70 points in their first game of many without Butler.

LaVine was a main reason the Bulls stayed afloat in the first 36 minutes, finishing with 21 points, seven assists and six rebounds in his first game back in front of the Minneapolis crowd he spent his first few years playing for.

Going head-up with his former teammate Wiggins for a stretch, the two seemed to relish their practice matchups. Wiggins was doing a lot of pure scoring while LaVine seemed to enjoy probing the defense and making plays for teammates, taking more of a ballhandling role as opposed to floating around the perimeter for 3-point attempts.

“He’s doing a much better job not settling for tough shots,” Bulls coach Fred Hoiberg said. “He’s attacking the basket much better than he was. You can just see him getting his legs, getting more comfortable. It was good to see him as a playmaker, he was terrific.”

Perhaps the Bulls are unlocking something with LaVine, getting him the ball in different places and on the move, where he made some nifty passes in traffic, exercising patience and maturity.

“I liked it. Hopefully we get a little bit more of it,” LaVine said. “But it’s working. Should’ve stuck to it.”

They didn’t, as the Bulls didn’t look as organized as they have previously. Dunn looked extremely motivated and aggressive but it seemed to work against him at times as Teague took advantage of Dunn being too quick for his own good. So hyped up, Dunn blew a breakaway dunk in the first half, but luckily Nwaba was right behind him for a putback.

That type of energy was expected for Dunn and LaVine, maybe even moreso for Dunn considering his underwhelming rookie year where he didn’t get much chance to play as a top-five pick.

Dunn finished with 10 points on four of 12 shooting while Cameron Payne scored 11  in 19 minutes, but the decision making from both point guards left plenty to be desired—which is to be expected given the lack of veterans on the floor.

Their starting unit again struggled as Justin Holiday and Robin Lopez again sat as the evaluation of the younger players continued.

Cristiano Felicio had a better outing than his foul-plagued game against Philadelphia, scoring 11 points but had his hands full on the other end. David Nwaba impressed for the second straight game as a starter, getting in the open floor to force the action, scoring 14 with nine rebounds in 34 minutes.

“The second quarter, I thought, was one of our better quarters of the year,” Hoiberg said. “As bad as we played in the first quarter, I thought we were down 20. We just didn’t sustain it. Against a great team like that, it’s gonna cost you.”

Nwaba, along with Bobby Portis, was a big reason why the Timberwolves couldn’t run away from the Bulls until well into the fourth quarter, even after taking a double-digit lead in the first quarter and sending Hoiberg scrambling for early timeouts.

“You can expect it because you haven’t played with that group before,” LaVine said. “We’re gonna get that chemistry down. We (only) had a couple practices with that lineup.”

Whether it’s the lineup change or just the rookie blues, the year has clearly caught up with Markkanen, who only made one field goal in 32 minutes.

“Gotta get some extra shots up. I see myself thinking too much,” Markkanen said. “That’s how it is. Of course it’s frustrating to not make shots but it is what it is. Gotta work through it.”

Markkanen has gone one-for-eight in each game coming from the All-Star break and missed all seven of his 3-point attempts.

“He’s shooting the heck out of the ball in practice,” Hoiberg said. “He’s struggling right now with his confidence, no question about it. As a shooter, you gotta keep looking to be aggressive, take the open ones. It takes one game to get that confidence back.”

Jimmy Butler's injury produced memories for Zach LaVine, Fred Hoiberg

Jimmy Butler's injury produced memories for Zach LaVine, Fred Hoiberg

MINNEAPOLIS — That feeling of having your knee buckle out of nowhere, Zach LaVine is all-too familiar with it.

That feeling of being on the sidelines and watching Jimmy Butler’s knee give out, Fred Hoiberg has been there, too.

Different perspectives, and different reactions but Butler’s knee injury produced a sick feeling to many who watched it Friday night. Butler turned to pivot in the Timberwolves’ game against the Houston Rockets and immediately collapsed on the floor, having to be carried off.

LaVine tore his ACL in Detroit over a year ago, while it was revealed Butler suffered a right meniscus injury. But it looked all the same and LaVine understood the uncertainty Butler must’ve been feeling before the MRI revealed it wasn’t an ACL injury.

“It’s scary,” LaVine said following morning shootaround at the Target Center Saturday afternoon. “I wish him the best. You don’t want to see that happen to anybody. Especially a player of his caliber and what he’s done for the team.”

When LaVine injured his ACL, he actually played a few more minutes before being removed and going to the locker room. The time between being evaluated by doctors and them coming back feels like a lifetime.

“It’s scary. You know you hurt yourself, you don’t know how bad,” LaVine said. “You think you’re good, you’re a tough minded person trying to get through it.”

“I saw him on the ground trying to get up, (Rockets guard) Chris Paul made him sit down. Jimmy’s a tough dude. Thoughts and prayers going out to him.”

Butler and LaVine were the centerpieces of the draft day trade involving the Bulls and Timberwolves. With Butler suffering the injury the night before playing his former team a second time, the timing produced a bunch of memories.

In Hoiberg’s first year with the Bulls, Butler went down in a somewhat similar manner in Denver, a non-contact injury. It looked just as bad, and Butler was taken off the floor in a wheelchair.

Thankfully it was a right knee strain that cost him several weeks but it wasn’t as bad as it looked. Considering the minutes he’s played over the last few years, Hoiberg was asked if Butler pushes himself too hard to be on the floor.

“Jimmy he wants to be out there,” Hoiberg said. “I remember the first year in Denver, he went down with what looked to be a serious injury. Thankfully he was back on the floor after 15-16 games.”

Actually, Butler missed 11 consecutive games before coming back for a nationally-televised game against the Rockets, playing 34 minutes in a Bulls win and missing the next three games for recovery.

“We really worried when he went down but it wasn’t something that ended his season,” Hoiberg said. “Jimmy’s a worker. He’s one of the hardest working guys I’ve seen. It’s a huge reason for the type of player he is, that work ethic to make him one of the elite players in the league.”