Rip's return a process of patience for Bulls


Rip's return a process of patience for Bulls

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.

Three Things to Watch: Bulls-76ers

NBC Sports Chicago

Three Things to Watch: Bulls-76ers

The Bulls square off against the Sixers tonight on NBC Sports Chicago, with coverage beginning at 6:30 with Bulls Pregame Live. Here are three things to watch as the Bulls begin the stretch run of their regular season.

1. The new rotation: Most of the Bulls’ rotation looks the same, but the addition of David Nwaba, Cristiano Felicio and Cameron Payne will have a different feel. The Bulls clearly want to get a look at these guys before the end of the regular season, meaning they’re not just going to get sporadic minutes. They’ll have to play through their mistakes, play out-matched at times and be put in uncomfortable situations. But the Bulls need to see what they have, especially in Payne, who has missed the entire season to this point with a broken foot.

2. Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons: They’re quite the 1-2 punch and have the Sixers looking at their first playoff appearance since Derrick Rose hadn’t yet torn an ACL. Yeah, that’s a long time. Embiid just finished his first All-Star appearance (starting in his second year) and Simmons is the front runner for Rookie of the Year. The Bulls will have their hands full with these two. Luckily…

3. Kris Dunn is back: The Bulls wanted to get Dunn some run before heading to All-Star Weekend to play in the Rising Stars Challenge, and he looked healthy in that thumping against the Raptors last week. The good news is John Paxson says Dunn won’t be on a minutes limit, which means he’s healthy. That, of course, is more important than how he’s playing. It’ll be fun to see him, LaVine and Markkanen play together down the stretch. Their numbers together aren’t great, but the Bulls are 2-2 with all three in the lineup, and tanking or not…it’s more fun to watch when those three are rolling. 

Blackhawks edge out Senators in shootout: 'It was really nice to get a win'


Blackhawks edge out Senators in shootout: 'It was really nice to get a win'

It was a rare sight to see the Blackhawks in a shootout on Wednesday night.

It was just the second time this season — and first time at the United Center — that the Blackhawks made it past 3-on-3 overtime. 

The last came on Dec. 2, 2017, a 3-2 shootout loss to the Stars in Dallas. On Wednesday night, the Blackhawks were on the other end, beating the Ottawa Senators 3-2 in a seven-round shootout. Nick Schmaltz netted the game-winner.

"We'll take it," coach Joel Quenneville said. "I thought we had a decent game tonight. Overtime not so good, I liked the shootout victory, Fors made some big saves for us particularly as the game got deeper. Our third was OK, I thought our first two were way better, and overtime we gave up some high quality, some bells were rings for a bit there. But it was nice to see the shootout win."

Patrick Kane had a goal and an assist, recording another multi-point game, his 16th of the season.

"I mean we need every point we can get at this point," Kane said. "There's still belief in this locker room. Obviously we need to go on quite a run and have a big record here down the stretch. But take it a game at a time and nice to get two points."

Anton Forsberg was a big reason the Blackhawks even recorded those two points. The 25-year-old netminder stopped 34 of 36 shots and made a handful of big saves down the stretch.

"It was really nice to get a win for sure," Forsberg said. "I would love to have a lot more wins, but right now just gotta look forward and get as many wins as possible."

Added Quenneville: "I think it was good for him to win a game the way he did. Lot of shots were on the line, as we progressed, got deeper, hitting the point first was big for him and for us and then finding a way to get the extra one was a good win."