PHILADELPHIA The last time the Bulls were in the City of Brotherly Love, their player with the closest ties to the region, veteran shooting guard Rip Hamilton, was unavailable to play against the 76ers. In fact, going back to their previous outing, a win at Washington in the second game of a season-long nine-game road trip, Hamilton was absent and wouldnt see game action until after the All-Star break.
This time around, Hamilton, a native of nearby Coatesville, Pa., is once again healthy and the fully-intact Bulls are on a mission for revenge after a uncharacteristically lackluster defeat in that February game. For the veteran shooting guard, Sundays contest is even more significant because for the first time since his former team, the Pistons, were a postseason participant, his loved ones will get to see him on a serious contender.
I was highly disappointed last time, not getting the opportunity to play here. I always get excited about coming back home and playing in front of my friends and family, Hamilton, who insisted that he grew up a Bulls, not Sixers fan, said before the Bulls Sunday-morning shootaround at the Wells Fargo Center. Its always exciting to be back and playing at a high level. My family appreciates it. Theyre my supporters, regardless of what the situation is. They want to come and support me and its a great opportunity for them to come out and do it.
Its a reunion for Hamilton in another way, as well. As a young player with the Wizards, he was coached by current Philadelphia and former Chicago head coach Doug Collins. Needless to say, the 13-year veteran isnt surprised by his former mentors success with the Sixers.
Doug does a great job. Dougs a great coach I had him when I was in Washington so he does an excellent job of getting those guys ready and getting them prepared. Anytime hes coaching a team, good things can happen, Hamilton explained. I think what Doug does is he teaches kids how to play the right way. When I was in Washington, he showed me a couple tricks and showed me how to play the game, so for any young kid, hes tough, hes hard, but he respects the game and always brings the best out of you.
The feeling is mutual. Collins, a former broadcaster between coaching stints, went into great detail when breaking down Hamiltons game.
If Rip is healthy, hes got great speed off the ball. He probably uses screens, reads screens as well as anybody in the NBA. You can post him up a little bit. The Bulls are actually posting him if you get him in a favorable matchup. Were expecting him to probably try to post up against Jodie Meeks to start the game tonight, but where Rip has really improved, I think, through his championship days in Detroit, is when he comes off those screens, hes become a much better passer.
"If that big guy helps up, he does a much better job of finding that big guy rolling to the basket and hes very, very good in the open court. Good defender, so he has a very good all-around game and his maturity as a veteran, he said. Hes been there. I think the Pistons went to six straight conference finals and were in the NBA Finals twice and won it once, so he brings a very experienced guy, who under pressure is a really good player. Hes won a national championship, hes won an NBA championship, so Rip is a champion and you put that on your team. Now, you have Korver coming off your bench and you have those kind of guys who can really shoot the ball. They have the ability to go small if they want to. They can move Lu to the four and cause problems, so they have a lot of versatility. Pax and Gar have done a really good job with their team.
The one thing with Rip, he was as always, I thought, as well-conditioned a player as anyone in the NBA. He can run all day and to me, when you can do that, you can wear people down. I played the two-guard position and I talked to Rip about playing that position and understanding what teams are doing against you, how are they playing you, reading the defense and I used to always tell him, Dont fight pressure with pressure; go away from pressure, so if theyre doing something, go away from that; dont try to fight them with that, Collins added. Im really proud of Rip. I know hes from Coatesville and very proud of being from this area, and Im sure hes going to want to come out tonight and play great in front of his family and a lot of friends.