Bulls

Hamilton keeps emotions in check during return to Detroit

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Hamilton keeps emotions in check during return to Detroit

AUBURN HILLS, MICH. Ive never been in here, Rip Hamilton said of the visitors locker room at the Palace at Auburn Hills, the arena where he plied his trade for so many years. When I first came in here, I was like, All right, wheres the showers? It felt real crazy.

Thats why I said, Hurry up and let the ball get thrown up, he continued. Once the ball was thrown up, I said, You know what? Do what youve always been doing and thats play basketball.

All the build-up, coming to the arena, going out there and shooting, it was crazy. Im looking on the other side, seeing Tayshaun Prince, seeing Ben Wallace, seeing Rodney Stuckey and I was like, Man, this feels awkward in a way, when youve been here for so long, but once the ball is thrown up, its time to go to battle.

Hamilton scored a modest 14 points and dished out five assists in his dual return to both Detroit and the Bulls lineup, from which he had been absent from for two consecutive games due to a groin injury but even though the crowd to welcome back the ex-Piston was sparse, he appreciated its support.

It was great, man. The fans appreciate what I did here and theyve always been supportive of me, he said. Even when stuff wasnt going so good, theyd always chant my name and stuff like that, so Ive got a lot of love for them. Theyve been by my side since I got here.

Still, he couldnt help but notice the dwindling number of filled seats at an arena thats used to supporting championship teams and contenders in the last few decades, dating back to the Bad Boy Pistons and most recently, Hamiltons 2004 title-winning squad.

Crazy. It looks unbelievable. When I was here and Chauncey Billups and Rasheed Wallace and everybody, I think we had like seven years of straight sellouts, so it was always great. It was always awesome, the fans were always great and to come in here and sto ee it halfway empty, its tough, but a lot of things have changed, said Hamilton. The economys messed up with the car industry going down and things like that. The team that we had is no longer there anymore, so its different.

When he first arrived at the arena with his new team, Hamilton was overcome by feelings of emotion and had to work hard not to let them out until the games final buzzer.

It was fun, man. Couldnt wait for the ball to be thrown up. A lot of emotion early in the game, being on the visitors side. Im not accustomed to it in this building, so it was difficult. I was like, Please, man, dont start crying or anything crazy like that. Just hurry up and let the ball get thrown up, so I can go out there and play, he said. Happy. I was so hyped, I was so excited. I didnt want to cry. I was like, Man, lets hurry up and get this game going on. Stay focused, stay on the prize, do your same routine. Then, you see everybody. You see so many people, like longtime Pistons announcer George Blaha, thats been supportive of me. Arena PA announcer Mason, Al, the picture guy, Arnie Kander, the teams strength and conditioning coach. You see all the guys that have so much love for you and it kind of gets emotional, but you know youve got to go out and try to get the win.

I didnt want to do anything when the Bulls arrived in Detroit. I said, You know what, Rip? Youve got a game. Stay in your room. Dont go anywhere. Kept all the lights off, didnt turn the TV on. I was like, Man, dont get caught up in being back in Detroit and getting so emotional and tied in. I said, Man, youve got all summer to do that. Just stay focused on the prize and try to get a win.

As far as his actual play, the veteran shooting guard was active his trademark perpetual-motion style of moving without the ball was in effect, as was his deadly shooting stroke, but he also continually set up his teammates, particularly big men Carlos Boozer and Joakim Noah, with easy opportunities around the rim though he was in his first game back from a groin injury.

First quarter was good; I think just adrenaline. Second quarter, I felt a little pull, but there was no way that I was getting off the court. So Ive just got to ice it down, get treatment, stim electronic stimulation, said Hamilton, who described his groin as sore after the game.

Said Bulls head coach Tom Thibodeau: I thought he handled the whole situation really well. Got himself ready to play, was focused and to start the game, he came out and he was playmaking. He wasnt trying to do too much and I think that speaks to his experience. He plays to win and I thought that he was terrific.

Boozer added: It was good to be here for Rip. We knew he had an emotional comeback, but at the same time, I thought he played very well, especially being out a couple games with his injury.

Hamilton said he had no regrets about his tenure in Detroit, but admitted he initially wished it ended differently.

When the lockout ended, I thought I was coming here. I was here for the first day of training camp, but the buyout came, he explained. It was a mutual thing. The direction that they were going and change is good for me. Get an opportunity now to try to get another ring. Its just another chapter in the book, so Im excited about being part of the Chicago Bulls."

Me and Chauncey, both, we always talked about that when we first got here. That was our main goal. OK, lets go out together. When the whole extension came up, that was the whole thing, continued Hamilton, who was portrayed as a key part of dismal Pistons season a year ago, particularly behind the scenes, leading to the ouster of former head coach John Kuester. When youre the highest-paid player on the team and youre the leader, and youre team captain, youve got to take the good and the bad. I always say, You can ask the guys in the locker room. Theyll tell you. Theyll tell you who I am. Ask the coaching staff. Theyll tell you who I am. So, all the sources and the allegations they put out, it hurt me. Because I thought, as long as I lay it all on the line for an organization, regardless, theyll always have your back and I see that wasnt the case.

I had a beautiful time here.

Patrick Beverley tells Wojnarowski: 'Vinny Del Negro, he told me I didn't play defense'

Patrick Beverley tells Wojnarowski: 'Vinny Del Negro, he told me I didn't play defense'

Patrick Beverley's path to the NBA was an intriguing one, a true story of perseverance featuring many twists and turns. For those who haven't closely followed Beverley's career, the Chicago native and current Los Angeles Clipper had a three-year career overseas before he really caught on in the NBA, landing a multi-year deal with the Houston Rockets in 2013. Before landing with the Rockets, Beverley played for Dnipro Dnipropetrovsk (Ukraine), Olympiacos Piraeus (Greece), Spartak St. Petersburg (Russia) before landing in Houston but a lesser-known fact is that Beverley actually spent time practicing with the Bulls within the first two years of his overseas basketball career. 

On Saturday's episode of "The Woj Pod" hosted by ESPN's Adrian Wojnarowski, Beverley discussed the importance of glue guys, Kris Dunn's season and much more. One of the more interesting tidbits was the aforementioned workouts with the Bulls. Beverley responded to a Woj question about if he could've played with the Bulls had things went differently earlier in his career:

I worked in the summertime with the Bulls, I don't know, two-three years in a row, Vinny Del Negro, he told me I didn't play defense...

Beverley elicited laughter from the crowd but he is clearly (and some would say rightfully) still upset by those who didn't give him an opportunity along the way. He went on to say that there is a "dynamic that fans don't know" and "can only assume." In the interview, Beverley didn't give a specific year but he says "two-three years" and clearly states that Vinny Del Negro was the head coach, meaning that he likely scrimmaged with the Bulls at points during the 2008-09 and 2009-10 seasons.

When you take a closer look at those rosters, the possible matchups Beverley had become incredibly interesting to think about. The 2009 Bulls had nine players scoring in double figures — and a 10th scoring 9.9 points per game in Kirk Hinrich — and the 2010 Bulls had six players scoring in double figures.

Beverley could've had matchups against Larry Hughes (12,0 PPG in '09), John Salmons (career-high 18.3 PPG in '09), Ben Gordon (20.7 PPG in '09), or even Derrick Rose (18.7 PPG from 2008-10). Out of that group, Gordon and Rose specifically, can make any defender look bad on their best day, so maybe Del Negro's mistake wasn't as egregious as it appears now. Either way, Beverley certainly hasn't forgotten the ordeal. 

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Derrick Jones Jr. takes down Aaron Gordon in an all-time great NBA Dunk Contest

Derrick Jones Jr. takes down Aaron Gordon in an all-time great NBA Dunk Contest

Ask anyone from Chicago around All-Star weekend, and you'll quickly learn the city breeds tough, gritty and relentless basketball.

Apparently, it also breeds controversial dunk contests.

Thirty-two years after Michael Jordan bested Dominique Wilkins in a contest at the Old Chicago Stadium that many agree saw a healthy heaping of home-cooking on the menu, Derrick Jones Jr. topped Aaron Gordon in an affair that sent shockwaves through the NBA universe. Here's the rundown:

Highlights from regulation

There was a special feeling about this one from the very beginning.

Perhaps white men can jump:

 

 

Dwight busted out the cape (again) — and tributed Kobe along the way:

 

Aaron Gordon at one point rattled off five 50s in a row:

 

The finish

In the end, it all came down to Gordon and Jones, who duked out a dunk-off that featured some absolute haymakers:

 

It was raucous fun, truly. But the controversy came at the finish. Jones' final dunk was an attempted reprisal of Julius Erving's famous free-throw line dunk (re-popularized by Jordan, partly in that aforementioned '88 contest), which registered a 48. Gordon then pulled out the 7-foot-6 Tacko Fall for an improvised leapfrog that nearly tore the roof down.

 

"It was a great decision for him to do that. Everybody knows Tacko's a fan favorite," Jones said. "I knew it was going to get the crowd hyped."

"He (Fall) was a little bit nervous. He was like 'I got faith in you.' I was like, 'I appreciate it,'" Gordon said.

That dunk, though, garnered only a 47 from the judges. Game, set, match: Jones. Boos cascaded from the rafters.

The reaction

That sentiment carried over into the postgame presser.

"What are we doing here?" Gordon bemoaned to assorted media before even taking his seat at the podium. "Jumping over somebody 7-foot-5 and dunking is no easy feat. What did I get, like a 47? Come on, man. What are we doing?"

All fair questions. All fair points.

"I don't even know who gave me the 9s. I'm going to find them," he added with a laugh. "Trust me, I'm going to find them tonight.

Dwyane Wade, Scottie Pippen and Chadwick Boseman... Look out.

Gordon did give Jones his due, calling him a "leaper" and "great dunker." Still, this appears to be the final contest of Gordon's career.

"It's a wrap, bro. It's a wrap. I feel like I should have two trophies," Gordon said, alluding to his defeat at the hands of Zach LaVine in 2016. "My next goal is going to be trying to win the 3-point contest."

Jones, meanwhile, contested the premise that Gordon was robbed at all.

"When I got that 48, it was tough because that was a dunk that I was doing since high school and I know that's 50-worthy. There's no way I should have got a 48," Jones said. "He clipped Tacko's head when he did that dunk, so I knew they couldn't have gave him a 50 for that one. I would have respected it if they gave him another 48, so we can go again."

In that event, Jones said he would have been ready.

"I just turned 23, I got legs for days," Jones said. Jones' birthday was the night of the contest, and he said he had dunks planned for as long as the judges allowed them to.

And though Jones hasn't yet thought about where this dunk contest ranks in the history of ones before, he's ready for the next challenge.

"Whoever want to step out there. I don't know. I'm not naming no names. I don't want to call nobody out, but whoever want to step out in front of me, I'm there. I'm not going to shy away from nobody."

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