Through the Bulls first four preseason games, theres been a mix of good, bad and ugly. One of the bright spots has been the consistently solid play of the veteran backcourt pairing of Kirk Hinrich and Rip Hamilton.
Once former rivals in his previous Bulls stint, Hinrich frequently guarded the then-Piston Hamilton the two have shown remarkable chemistry thus far. After being plagued by injuries in recent years and questions about whether theyve lost a step, the experienced guard duo seemingly has something to prove.
For Hinrich, who was traded from Chicago to Washington and subsequently, to Atlanta in the Bulls effort to clear cap space prior to the free-agent frenzy of 2010, hes showing that hes still a starting-caliber point guard. His teammates have certainly noticed.
Just being back with him is cool because weve got such history. Hes a veteran. To have him back in Chicago is so good. The way he plays, he knows the game. Hes a real unselfish player. He gets everybody better. He has that good veteran leadership, Taj Gibson told CSNChicago.com. He seems real rejuvenated. In practice, he just goes really hard. Look at most of the preseason games; hes been a spark for us. The skys the limit for him, as long as hes healthy.
In Hamiltons case, after an injury-riddled debut campaign in the Windy City, remaining healthy is also the goal. After the early returns, albeit in exhibition games, the results of a therapist-aided offseason regimen have been obvious.
Playing against him, it was frustrating because it was like, Man, how hes getting open every time on the curl? He just never stops running and I think he wears down defenders when he runs because he can do it. A lot of people cant do it. Him and Ray Allen are real gifted at that, said Nate Robinson after Hamilton scored 23 points in last weeks home win over Milwaukee. I told Rip he can go a whole game without even dribbling the ball.
Its pretty fun to be on the other side. The grass is greener.
Added Bulls head coach Tom Thibodeau: Well see how that unfolds. The big thing is his health.
I think when he was on the floor, he played well, but when you miss 40 games, thats a lot, he continued. Hes put a lot of work into improving his body. Hes feeling a lot better this year, so thats a good sign and then, he has to maintain it throughout the course of the season.
Thibodeau has been cautious with his starting guards, resting Hamilton in Minnesota last Saturday and sitting Hinrich against Milwaukee because of a minor right-thumb injury. But the duo is cut from the same cloth both are efficient offensive players and if not elite defenders, pesky with a lot of big-game experience and their hard-nosed similarities appeal to the coach.
At this point, it can be gleaned that although Hamilton privately yearns for more minutes, Thibodeau is gun-shy, due to his various ailments a season ago. The opposite could be true for Hinrich, whose workload could be heavier than its been in years with Derrick Rose out to begin the season.
Regardless, with Hamiltons preseason-leading 15.3 points per game in 25 minutes a night and Hinrichs 11.3 point and six-assist averages in 27.7 minutes per contest, for the time being, the veterans are getting the job done.