CLEVELAND By the numbers, Rip Hamiltons 15 minutes on the floor in his second game back from his layoff in Wednesday nights win at San Antonio wasnt that impressive. But according to Bulls head coach Tom Thibodeau, the veteran shooting guard is making progress.
Hes doing fine. His shot didnt drop Wednesday, but I thought they were his shots, so as long as were doing that, were good and hopefully hes fine Thursday. The encouraging thing was he got up Wednesday and felt fine, so thats a good sign, said the coach. I liked his shots. San Antonios a tough team to get shots against. They know what theyre doing.
Because hes missed so much time, we just want to make sure that, from a conditioning standpoint, that he can handle it and well gradually build up as we go along, he continued. Hamiltons minutes are based on more what we read during the game, how he feels the next day and well just go from there.
It gives us another thing that we can go to with the catch-and-shoot and many of the same plays we run with Kyle, we run with Rip and the thing about Rip is, hes very unselfish, so whenever theres two on the ball, hes going to find the open man. The thing I really liked about the way he played is I thought that he didnt force anything. He just came in and played, and I thought that he was reading the defense well, made very good decisions and its something he can build on.
Hamilton, a 13-year pro concurred with Thibodeaus prognosis of patience.
It felt good to be out there, just to be out there competing and playing. From a rhythm standpoint, itll come with just being out there playing, but from getting to where I wanted to get to out there on the floor, I felt good about that, he explained. Rhythm, timing, I think thats the biggest thing anytime youre away from the game.
Hamilton loves the fact that the Bulls depth hasnt put pressure on him to be the nearly 20 point-per-game career scorer that he is, as reserve swingman Ronnie Brewer has proved to be a capable fill-in starter, sharpshooter Kyle Korver can pick up the slack from his missing marksmanship and Thibodeau has occasionally paired a backup point guard with Derrick Rose, all contributing factors to Hamiltons relatively low usage in the teams two games since the All-Star break.
Its great because it enables Thibs to play me the first eight minutes of the first quarter and the first eight minutes of the third and were still able to win, and thats huge because I dont have to be thrown into the fire. When youve got great teammates like I have and guys that are producing, its awesome for me, he said. The biggest thing with me is getting to different spots on the court and I feel good about getting to wherever I want to get on the court. Now, when I get there, my rhythm and my timing Ill get better as Im out there but the key thing with my leg is Im able to get where I want to get on the floor and thats the most important thing. Im happy with it. Its a gradual thing. Dont be so much in a rush and were winning, so thats the benefit. Thats the luxury that we have in this situation. Guys are really playing well and really stepping up so it enables it to be a slow process instead of a fast process.
Hamilton has already formed a bond with his younger teammates, something that has helped him cope with both his injuries and the recently loss of his grandmother.
Theyre my young fellas. They make the game fun for me. They want it and Ive been there before, and I think its a great opportunity. Theyre funny. They laugh, they joke, he said with a smile. It makes my life a lot easier, especially when I wasnt playing.
Now that hes back in the lineup, Hamilton admitted that hes heard the scuttlebutt that he was signed solely to help the Bulls make a postseason run and while worse things could be said about a player, he disputed that notion.
The regular season is a great time also. Its not just the playoffs. Theres situations in the regular season where you can get familiar with your teammates and you want to start rolling going into the playoffs, he explained. You dont want to just turn it on when the playoffs start. You want to be moving forward and playing well when the playoffs start.