Hamilton turns Chicago into Rip City

613644.png

Hamilton turns Chicago into Rip City

After his first Bulls practice, a jovial Richard Hamilton made his intentions clear.

"I'm coming here to do whatever the coach and organization wants me to do. If they want me to come in and play 20 minutes, I'm going to do that," the 12th-year pro said Thursday. "Whatever the team needs because my biggest thing is I want to win a world championship. I won it once, had an opportunity to win it again, but didn't."

On a Pistons team that made back-to-back Finals appearances -- winning it all in 2004 -- Hamilton was part of one of the league's strongest defensive units in recent history, so adjusting to Tom Thibodeau's style shouldn't be overly difficult.

"Coach Thibodeau helped me through the whole time, the guys on the team were very talkative with me, helped me through different plays. It's learning a whole new, different system again, so it was fun. It's exciting just to be out here playing basketball again," said Hamilton of his first practice with his new team. "It's going to be an adjustment. Basketball is basketball, at the end of the day. A lot of plays are the same, but different calls and things like that, so one of the biggest things is adjusting to the guys on the floor, understanding what their likes and dislikes are. But hopefully I can learn fast."

As far as whether he'll play in the Bulls' preseason opener Friday in Indianapolis, Hamilton was unsure.

"We'll see. I learned a lot today. Today wasn't even basketball to me. It was pretty much like I was in college again, in class, learning all the different sets and figuring out where I needed to be on the offensive end, on the defensive end, the drills and everything," he said. "So, it was very confusing for me today. I thought I was going to come in and all of a sudden, just turn it on, but it didn't work that way."

Concurred Thibodeau: "We'll see. We'll treat the shootaround more like a practice, so I'm still undecided on that. I want to see him a little more."

"He looked good. He's in good shape, picks things up quickly, been around, he's a pro's pro, smart, high energy. He did a good job," the coach added. "I think he fits in with our team because of the fact that he's unselfish and he requires you to put two on the ball. Most teams are going to trap him on catch-and-shoot plays, and he'll hit the open man, so he gives us something else that we can go to. I like his size at that position -- I think that will help us -- and his experience. I think that goes a long way.

"I think you like to have balance, so we've got a lot of young guys, we've got some guys who are in the middle and then we have the veteran leadership, the guys that have been around. It's important. The guy's been in 120 playoff games. He's averaged 20 points in the playoffs, which is significant. But more importantly, he plays to win, and that's what we want him to do here," he continued. "He's been a premier catch-and-shoot player in the league for a long time. Now, we're not going to ask him to carry the load, but I think he fits in.

"Those teams in Detroit, they were great defensively. I think he takes a lot of pride in it."

However, Thibodeau wouldn't rule out the possibility of returning swingman Ronnie Brewer, who has excelled in training camp, starting at shooting guard, although it's believed that the second-year head coach prefers to keep his "Bench Mob" second unit intact.

"Ronnie has played terrific. He played great for us at the end of last year, so he's a critical part of our team," Thibodeau explained. "So, who starts, who comes off the bench, I'm not quite sure yet. We'll see how that goes and we're going to do what's best for the team."

Through one practice, Hamilton -- who said he was friendly with Derrick Rose, Carlos Boozer and Luol Deng before coming to Chicago -- has already made a positive impression on his new teammates.

"He's a winner, obviously won a championship, and he's going to be a great addition to our team," backup point guard C.J. Watson told CSNChicago.com.

From a floor general's perspective, playing with Hamilton should be a boon, Watson explained.

"Hamilton will probably be utilized coming off of screens, sort of how we use Kyle Korver. It's another spot-up shooter to take the pressure off D. Rose when he's in there with him, so it's going to be great to see them play together," he said. "It's going to be real easy. You've just got to get him the ball in the right spots and also gets you a lot of open shots, too, because a lot of attention will be on him."

Although Hamilton seems like a great fit on paper, the franchise is preaching caution when it comes to the notion that the 33-year-old will get the Bulls back to the promised land.

"I don't know if it's a missing piece. I don't know if you categorize it like that. I think Rip's got the ability to help this team," said general manager Gar Forman, who didn't give a clear-cut answer when asked if Hamilton would be allowed to wear his trademark headband, something the Bulls haven't permitted in the past. "He's got a proven resume, he's been a winner at every level, he's a pro and I think he'll fit with our group -- the type of guy he is -- and I think his game will fit with our group."

Added Hamilton: "Well, we'll all see. I love the game of basketball. I think that I can help this team is so many different ways and I'm excited about it.

"It was an awesome fit for me. When I looked at their team, they won 62 games last year, so they were already a great team before me and I thought it was an opportunity where I could help," continued the three-time All-Star, who consulted with former Bulls and ex-Pistons teammates Lindsay Hunter, Ben Wallace and Ben Gordon prior to signing with the organization. "I'm very, very excited, man. There's not too many opportunities to play with the MVP of the league. He is very special. He can do pretty much any and everything, and he showed it last year. I just want to help. I just want to be there when he needs my help, to have his back, be there through thick and thin, and be ready to ride with him."

Hamilton briefly addressed his tumultuous final days in Detroit, where he was reportedly part of a faction of veteran players who turned against ousted Pistons head coach John Kuester.

"I never had an issue with Coach Kuester," he said. "Everybody says it, but if you look in the media, you never heard a comment come out of my mouth; you never heard a comment come out of his mouth.

But when asked about his downward statistical trend, he answered, "Twenty-five minutes a game.

"Last year was last year," he continued. "Awkward, very awkward when you're with an organization for as long as I was and think that you'll retire there and now to be on the other team, it's different, but I'm excited."

Despite his age, the former NCAA champion at the University of Connecticut -- considered one of the most physically-fit players in the NBA -- believes his experience will pay off in his new digs.

"My game is running around. A lot of it is endurance, doing stuff that people hate to do. But I think that will allow me to play for a long time, so I just try to keep working on my craft," said Hamilton. "I think the only thing I lost was that trophy, when I was 26. Now it's time to try to get that thing back."

Dwyane Wade tweets apology to fans after Bulls' lopsided loss in Atlanta

Dwyane Wade tweets apology to fans after Bulls' lopsided loss in Atlanta

For the opening three quarters in Atlanta, the Bulls were off. 

So off, in fact, that Dwyane Wade tweeted an apology to Chicago fans after the game. 

Thanks to a furious run by the Bulls' bench, the final score ended at a respectable 102-93. In reality, though, the Hawks dominated. 

Wade and company trailed by 29 points at half and 30 at the end of three. The 35-year-old shooting guard finished with a minus-18 and just four points while All-Star starter Jimmy Butler posted a team-low minus-22.

The Bulls will look to shake off their lopsided loss against the Sacramento Kings on Saturday. 

 

Fred Hoiberg after Bulls' embarrassing loss to Hawks: 'We're gonna look at everything'

Fred Hoiberg after Bulls' embarrassing loss to Hawks: 'We're gonna look at everything'

The bus was warm before the game started, as the Bulls looked like they wanted no parts of the Atlanta Hawks.

It was evident from the jump that playing with a full and healthy squad for one of the few times this season wasn't enough to arouse their competitive juices, as they put together arguably their worst 48-minute showing in a 102-93 loss at Philips Arena, dropping them to 21-23 in a game they trailed by as many as 34 points.

The practices have apparently been the sterling jewel of effort and competitiveness for the Bulls but it hasn't carried over through the season as the inconsistency continues to be maddening — one that seems to go beyond the "growing pains" mantra that's been fed by all involved so far this year.

"It could be things but I don't want to share it with the media," a sunglasses-clad Dwyane Wade said outside the locker room, in a rare mood of not being elaborative following a loss.

It appears even the professional's professional has gotten a bit more frustrated than usual — understandable considering the way the starters came out with a lack of energy, with more turnovers (eight) than field goals (six) in the first quarter.

"Continue to try to lead behind the scenes," Wade said. "Can't stop when it's bad, when it's good. You gotta be the same."

Fred Hoiberg, fed up with the starters, ran with the reserves for the fourth quarter and outscored the Hawks by nearly 25 points, bringing the lead to 95-90 with a minute left before a Dennis Schroeder jumper restored order with 52.6 seconds left.

Four Hawks scored in double figures led by Schroeder's 25 points and six assists and Paul Millsap scoring 14 while making all four of his shots in just 22 minutes of run.

[MORE BULLS: Dwyane Wade not buying into the Bosh to Bulls speculation]

Perhaps it's the Hawks being the same kryptonite to the Bulls that the Bulls are to the Toronto Raptors — except the Bulls simply frustrate the Raptors, not embarrass them.

"I have been, we have been, tired of this. I gotta come out better," said Jimmy Butler, who led the Bulls with 19 points in 29 minutes. "I gotta play better from the jump, 48 minutes. That's not the way we're supposed to play. 

"The way we practice is not the way we play in the game. Don't ask me why, I don't know. Starting with me and going down the line, we gotta be better as a whole. Otherwise we'll keep getting our asses beat and it's bad."

The Hawks shot over 60 percent for most of the night until the game devolved into what amounted to a pickup game late. After all, the Hawks seemed to be battling boredom by half, leading 65-36 and shooting 68 percent from the field and hitting 67 percent from three.

"We're gonna look at everything and we'll see how we go out and start tomorrow and a couple days after that, hopefully we figure some things out," Hoiberg said. "They shot over 70 percent in the first quarter and you dig yourselves a hole and it's impossible to get out."

Hoiberg said he would evaluate everything leading into Saturday's game at home against the Sacramento Kings, but Friday didn't seem to present any realistic lineup changes based on performance.

Bobby Portis scored 10 with seven rebounds off the bench, with Jerian Grant scoring 12 and Paul Zipser 10. Doug McDermott and Nikola Mirotic combined to shoot two for nine, so one wonders where Hoiberg can go.

"I don't know. Practice is good. Practice is great," Butler said. "Practice is not gonna win you games. We gotta take what we do in practice and take it over to the game."

The Bulls weren't about to make it any more suspenseful than it had to be, as they started off missing their first 11 3-pointers, often missing multiple open looks on the same possession.

It wasn't relegated to just shooting as the Bulls squandered easy opportunities in easy situations, like Denzel Valentine turning a three-on-one fast break into an airballed finger-roll attempt that he caught himself — a violation, of course.

"I don't know, I can't put a word on it. Because it's just talk," Butler said. "Doesn't matter what you say, if we don't go out there and do it, what the hell is talking gonna do? We've been up and down all year. If we don't guard and turn the ball over, games get out of hand very quickly."

This one was over a few minutes into it, as the Bulls looked like a lifeless squad with no direction and very little fight, short of a minor dustup between Dwight Howard and Robin Lopez in the third quarter.

At that point, though, all Howard had to do is point at the scoreboard, where a 30-point lead did all the necessary talking.

The Bulls trailed by 20 even before Tim Hardaway Jr. hit a 35-footer to end the first quarter, sending the Hawks off on a high and seemingly demoralizing the Bulls.

Even Butler's 19-point night, hitting six of his eight shots in 29 minutes, rang hollow. The Bulls could've trotted out a D-League team for the second half to gear up for Saturday's game against Sacramento and been better off than how they performed Friday night.

And for the Bulls, they can't simply just go back to the drawing board. There looks to be something fundamentally wrong with this bunch — either that, or the Atlanta night got the best of them Thursday.