Hamilton's fourth-quarter absence a mystery

817524.png

Hamilton's fourth-quarter absence a mystery

HOUSTONAt first, it seemed like a byproduct of last seasons injury-plagued campaign. Now, with the Bulls struggling and not executing in close, late-game situations, the fact that veteran Rip Hamilton has been nailed to the bench just seems odd.
Sure, in Wednesday nights loss to Houston, Hamilton only shot 2-for-10 from the floor, making it somewhat justifiable that he didnt see any fourth-quarter action, even though the shooting guard is one of the few players on the roster who has experienceand successcoming up big in those situations. But when coupled with the fact that after he went 7-for-10 in another narrow defeat at Portland, the teams previous loss in their current three-game skid, its more puzzling.
Youre going with the group thats playing well at that particular time. Its not about individuals, its about the team, Bulls head coach Tom Thibodeau explained. This team Houston is a tough team to cover defensively. So, I thought Taj and Jimmy coming in got us going in the right direction.
True, Butler is deserving of more playing timeGibson, who has closed out games for Carlos Boozer since the starting power forwards arrival in Chicago, long ago has been Thibodeaus go-to player of choice down the stretch, unless Boozer has it going offensively, as he started to late in the Rockets loss, but thats another story for another time, or even one thats been told beforeas this writer advocated Wednesday morning, and the second-year swingmans energy, defensive play and athleticism has definitely given the Bulls a shot of adrenaline when hes on the floor. But even if its offense-defense substitutions needed to get Hamilton on the court late, for a team mired in struggles scoring the ball and without the necessary poise needed to win tight games recently, its a mystery why a player known for stepping up in the clutch doesnt get the opportunity to show what hes capable of.
Hamilton answered those concerns diplomatically, perhaps out of deference for Thibodeaus track record or maybe because after the end to his successful run in Detroit was tainted by the implication that he wasnt as much as of a team-first player that he seemed to be for his entire career prior to the allegations that surfaced before leaving the Pistons. Either way, he wouldnt bite.
The one thing youve just got to do is just cheer for the guy thats out there. Hopefully we get the win, so you just try to stay positive with it, he calmly said afterwards. Like I always say, whatever they need me to do, Im going to do. If its play whatever, Im going to play. Just trying to stay positive, just try to keep getting better each and every day.
When I came to Chicago, it was just one of those things, Hamilton cryptically continued. I didnt want to get caught up in anything else.
While Hamilton will never admit to acknowledging that hes starting to approach the twilight of his careerand why would he, as hes displayed on multiple occasions this season, even on the Bulls current road trip, that hes still capable of being a major offensive forceone has to think that the whispers about him being the same player and being potential trade bait before the league-wide deadline so the organization can avoid the luxury tax have affected him. Although he reported to training camp in tip-top shape after privately being challenged to step up his game, the party line about protecting his health has to be wearing thin.
But Hamilton continues to be the good soldier, maybe thinking about his future legacy as a player, with respect to post-career opportunities, possibly wondering how it could help his perception when he inevitably moves on or even, more innocently, just not knowing why hes not given the chance to display his crunch-time chops. Regardless, no matter how much it bothers him, a player who makes good decisions, consistently knocks down shots off set plays and has done so for literally decades, going back to his national-championship days in college, let alone in the NBA Finals for Detroit, its hurting the Bulls even more, at least until another late-game primary optionoutside of Joakim Noahs big-man playmaking, Luol Dengs slashing-and-cutting game, and Nate Robinsons overall fearlessessemerges.

Bulls' Taj Gibson a late scratch with ankle injury vs. Mavericks

Bulls' Taj Gibson a late scratch with ankle injury vs. Mavericks

Just when you think the Bulls are back at full strength for one of the few times this season and able to hit the reset button halfway through the year, someone goes down with an injury.

Taj Gibson will miss Tuesday’s game against the Dallas Mavericks with a left ankle injury that he apparently suffered Sunday night in the Bulls’ win against Memphis.

This comes on the day Nikola Mirotic has recovered from his strep throat and apparently the flu bug that made its way through the locker room has finally run its course.

Paul Zipser, the Bulls’ rookie second-round pick, will start in Gibson’s place. Zipser has played in 12 games so far, starting in two of them.

"It's something that kind of popped up,” Bulls coach Fred Hoiberg said. “I don't know exactly the time. He did have a little bit of soreness in the game. Again, it's not to the point where you're saying this is something that holds him out a while.”

[SHOP: Gear up, Bulls fans!]

Gibson did have ankle surgery on his left ankle in June 2015, but he’s been an iron man this year, starting every game to this point and averaging 12 points with 7.3 rebounds.

Hoiberg said he’s not sure if Gibson will need an MRI or if this injury is somehow related to the ankle surgery that cost Gibson several months in the 2015 offseason.

It seems Hoiberg will start off with Zipser and then use Mirotic and Bobby Portis as reserves against the Mavericks team that gave the Bulls a 25-point whipping in Dallas on Dec. 3, their second-worst loss of the year.

“Again, we hope to sit him tonight, have a couple days off to rest and get him back in the lineup in the next one,” Hoiberg said. “We felt it was best to hold him out tonight."

Janarion Grant will return to Rutgers for fifth season in 2017

janarion-grant-0924.png
USA TODAY

Janarion Grant will return to Rutgers for fifth season in 2017

One of the most explosive players in the Big Ten will be back for the 2017 season.

Rutgers announced Tuesday that do-it-all man Janarion Grant will be back on the field for the Scarlet Knights this fall. Grant suffered a leg injury in the team's fourth game of the season and missed the last eight games of the campaign.

"Fifth year, here I come! I'm excited about what I have been able to accomplish so far, but I look forward to getting out there and competing with my teammates again," Grant said in the announcement. "I thank coach (Chris) Ash and the staff as well as my family for their support through this process. Let's make this season special. Go Knights!"

Grant is tied for the all-time NCAA lead in kick-return touchdowns with eight. He's got five kickoff-return touchdowns and three punt-return touchdowns.

This past season, Grant got off to a lightning-quick start, scoring six total touchdowns. In just four games, he totaled 210 receiving yards, 195 kickoff-return yards and a kickoff-return touchdown, 138 rushing yards and three rushing touchdowns, 21 passing yards and a passing touchdown and 112 punt-return yards and a punt-return touchdown.

Grant is Rutgers' all-time leader in kickoff-return yards with 2,606, and he ranks fourth in program history in all-purpose yards with 4,251.

The Knights were offensively challenged in Ash's first season as head coach, dead last in the conference with an average of 15.7 points per game and 283.2 yards per game. Former Minnesota head coach Jerry Kill was hired earlier this offseason as the team's new offensive coordinator.