DEERFIELD, ILL. After tearing his left plantar fascia in a Dec. 1 win over the 76ers, Bulls starting shooting guard Rip Hamilton could return to the teams lineup in Saturday nights home game against the Wizards, the organization that drafted him out of college. Both Bulls head coach Tom Thibodeau and Hamilton himself said it would be a game-time decision.
Today was the first day I really went through the whole practice, getting up and down, and running. It wasnt easy; it was tough, just for the simple fact of getting back into things. But I was able to cut and try to get to different spots on the floor, so it felt pretty good, Hamilton said after Friday afternoons practice at the Berto Center. Its looking real good. Were going to see how my body responds in the morning and then, me and Thibs are going to talk.
Just putting weight on my foot again, cutting, stopping and going. I do a whole lot of stopping and cutting when coming off screens, so just more about putting weight on the floor with somebody on me, he continued, explaining how he could be limited when he returns to the court. Well try some type of heel lift, to lift my heels up a little bit, so I dont put so much pressure on the back of my heel.
It was uncomfortable when I hurt it. I feel it some, so any benefit I can get, Im going to try to go with.
Thibodeau chimed in: Rip was really good today. He did the whole practice well, so well see how hes feeling tomorrow.
Obviously health is important, wed like to have everyone back and when hes been healthy, hes played very well for us, so hopefully hell be back soon, the coach added. Tomorrow, as long as he doesnt have any problems, which I cant foresee he hasnt for the past couple of days then hell be a go and how much he plays, well see when he gets out there.
Hes done quite a bit over the last week and we did some scrimmaging today. He was fine. Hes got it ramped up pretty good and the next day, there hasnt been any problems, so thats encouraging. But well see and again, in practice, you try to simulate game-like conditions as much as you can, but its never quite like a game, so the intensity of a game is unique and well see how he responds to that.
Also a game-time decision against Washington is the Bulls other starting wing, Luol Deng, who suffered a sprained right ankle in the teams Christmas Day loss to the Rockets at the United Center.
He didnt do a whole lot today during practice, but hes much improved, Thibodeau said about Deng, who also injured his left shoulder in last Fridays overtime road win in New York. Well see tomorrow where hes at.
Hamilton understands that when he returns, hell likely play limited minutes initially, especially with the solid play of understudy Marco Belinelli during his absence, which is presently just shy of the four-week prognosis given when he first injured his foot.
I havent got a whole lot of practice time. Today was the first day I practiced, so its going to take time. I know for a fact that Thibs doesnt want to just put me out there and say, All right, play 30 minutes a game. He wants to gradually see how I respond with limited minutes at first and see how that goes, he acknowledged. Its been hard not being able to get out there and help your team win. I thought it was good, just for the simple fact that a guy like Marco, who wasnt playing a whole lot and now has an opportunity to go out there and play, and show what he can do. So I just think it was one of those things where it was tough because you want to be out there and you want to help your teammates win.
With Belinelli playing the way that hes playing, hopefully he can continue to play that way. It gives us another weapon. Thats what were going to need from him. I dont expect anything different when I come back. I dont want him to put the same amount of pressure and Im going to put the same pressure on him to play the same exact way because were going to need him, he continued. I think he can play alongside Belinelli. Hes smart. In Detroit, I played the three some we went small and hes smart. Hes a guy that really knows how to play and hopefully can continue to play that way.
Thibodeau, who claimed he hadnt decided whether or not Hamilton would immediately start upon his return, added: The thing is, they have great versatility, so I can play Marco and Rip together, probably Rip and Jimmy together, Lu can play with everybody, so we have great versatility in our wings. So, I cant foresee a problem there.
Hamilton also elaborated on his recovery process from the injury, explaining that hes done, Everything from ice, electronic muscle stimulation, swimming pool, calf raises, massages. Weve been doing everything really. Different types of tape jobs on it to try to get the swelling out. Theres still swelling there, but I think that with me playing or trying to get out there, the swelling will eventually go away, but weve been doing everything to eventually get back.
My job is to try to get the guys going, on offense and on defense. Try to get guys easy baskets, get Booz easy baskets and Jo, so its just something where I try to make the game easy for everybody. Once the game is easy for everybody, good things can happen, he continued when asked how he expects to impact the Bulls, who are currently in the midst of a two-game losing streak. The last two games were rough; they were tough. We thought that we could play a lot better. I think that we could still grow. The team has responded well.
His coach also took a big-picture view, while simultaneously focusing on the task at hand.
The big thing is not to look at the group of games, just get ready for Washington, to concentrate on our improvement. Weve had a couple bad games and we have to bounce back, and we have to understand what it takes to win and if were doing the right things, the results will take care of themselves, he explained.
Weve had a lot of slippage, not only on defense, but our offense, as well. Its been more of a low-energy type game and for us, thats not good. We need high energy on offense, we need high energy on defense. When we do that, were usually pretty good. But I think when we start taking short cuts, youre not doing the right things. You usually get what you deserve in this league. I dont think we were playing hard enough and we have to correct that.
Thibodeau didnt bemoan a missed opportunity to get back on the winning track Wednesday, when the Bulls game at Indiana was postponed by the league due to weather conditions in Indianapolis: We were there, so its very unusual to have a game postponed, but the league does a great job with that, so they didnt want to jeopardize anyones safety. So, they made the right decision, I think.
As for Saturdays matchup, the ever-prepared coach isnt overlooking the lowly Wizards, as he complimented their entire roster in typical fashion.
Well, theyre good. Their thing is theyve been hit hard with injury. Theyre usually in every game, Thibodeau deadpanned. Their bigs up front: Nene is a tough matchup, Emeka Okafor has been a very good player in the league for a long time. Jordan Crawford, very good. Shelvin Mack is a good player. John Walls been out; thats hurt them. Bradley Beal is a very good young player.
This is a team, theyre going to play. Youve got to be ready for them. Nene wasnt playing at the beginning of the season, so that hurt them some, but theyre tough. Theyve got guys who can crack you off the dribble, theyve got bigs inside who can do damage. Kevin Seraphins a very good player coming in off the bench, so weve got to be ready.