Without Hamilton, Bulls 'have more than enough to win'

626604.png

Without Hamilton, Bulls 'have more than enough to win'

MILWAUKEE When Rip Hamilton came off the United Center floor early in Mondays win over the Pacers, following a collision with Indiana center Roy Hibbert, the first thought of fans and members of the organization alike was, Here we go again. A day later, his right-shoulder injury was termed a contusion and mild sprain" and his status was listed as day-to-day. Prior to the Bulls Wednesday-morning shootaround at the Bradley Center, the 13-year veteran shed some light on his situation.

Its sore. It still hurts. When I first did it, I felt it pop, but when I ran downcourt, I could still move my hands, so I knew that it wasnt broken. But it was a lot of pain just to lift my arm up, he said. Sometimes you say, Why you? but thats a part of the game you have to deal with. It comes with the territory. Its just tough for me because Ive never been like this my whole career, especially one minute and 20 seconds into the game. All these little freak things. Its crazy, man.

I want to be out there. I want to play. Its crazy because even when I was out there and I was getting limited minutes, for it to happen so freaky like that, its crazy. Ive just got to stay mentally strong, mentally tough and keep trying to prepare myself to get better, he continued. Im just trying to lift my arm up. Aint no miracle going to happen tomorrow or anything like that, so just trying to get the swelling out, just trying to get my range of motion back, so its going to be a minute.

I thought, at first, that it was just a stinger. Like, Bam! I got hit. OK, Rip. I always tell myself, Dont fall, get up. I thought it would loosen up by the time I got down to the other end of the floor and it didnt. Thats when it kind of scared me.

Added Bulls head coach Tom Thibodeau: You never can tell with those things. Youre just hopeful that its not serious. It wasnt, so were encouraged by that.

You never know how theyre going to feel tomorrow and thats the way that I want them to approach it. Put a lot of work into your rehab, do as much as you can and when youre ready to go, youre ready to go, he continued. Weve had injuries throughout the year. Were disappointed for him because he put a lot of work into it, but we feel good about all the guys that we have. We have more than enough to win with. Ronnies played extremely well as a starter, so we feel good about that and our bench has played great all year long.

Thibodeau said that while Hamiltons injury history was considered before signing him, the pros outweighed the cons.

You look at everything. You look at what hes done throughout his career and I think the good certainly outweighs anything negative, so we felt good about it from the start, he explained. Hes had misfortune this year. Its an unusual year for everybody and hopefully hell be back quickly.

Hamilton believes the leagues condensed schedule has a great deal to do with the rash of injuries throughout the NBA, not just his, but has taken comfort in how supportive the Bulls have been.

From the whole leagues standpoint, you see guys going down. All the back-to-back games, the travel. People dont look at it, but it has an effect. Weve seen it in football. You dont want to say it, but its one of those things where your bodys not accustomed to going this way all of the time, but it is what it is. You have to deal with it, he said. The Bulls have been great. Theyve been awesome. I spoke to general manager Gar Forman last night and the biggest thing is, in speaking to my teammates, on one side, Im shaking my head, like Why? weve had so many injuries this year on this team and on the other side, Im saying, Hey, you know what? Just get right, man. Just get right and come back, so we can do what weve got to do.

It could be an eventual positive that Hamilton will at least be fresh when the postseason arrives, but he didnt take solace in that notion.

That could be a bright side, but you dont think about it right now, he said. Your motivation is to be out on the floor, to be out there battling with your teammates, so its really hard to even think about stuff like that.

Fast Break Morning Update: Josh Sitton named to Pro Bowl; Blackhawks-Lightning on CSN

Fast Break Morning Update: Josh Sitton named to Pro Bowl; Blackhawks-Lightning on CSN

Five Things to Watch: Blackhawks host Lightning tonight on CSN

CSN will air six Cubs spring training games in 2017

Cubs' Carl Edwards Jr. looks to follow in Mariano Rivera's footsteps

NBA Buzz: With trade deadline looming, Bulls' season at a crossroads

Bears' Josh Sitton finds fourth Pro Bowl most meaningful yet

Report: Cubs preparing to roll the dice with Brett Anderson

Extra incentive fuels Tanner Kero in second stint with Blackhawks

Four top prospects among 19 players invited to White Sox big league camp

NBA Insiders Notebook: Trade rumors heating up

Five B1G-gest things: Indiana wins first game without Anunoby, Michigan 'white collar' no more

Five Things to Watch: Blackhawks host Lightning tonight on CSN

Five Things to Watch: Blackhawks host Lightning tonight on CSN

Watch as the Blackhawks take on the Tampa Bay Lightning tonight on CSN and streaming live on CSNChicago.com. Coverage begins at 7 p.m. with Blackhawks Pregame Live. Then stick around after the final buzzer to watch Blackhawks Postgame Live for highlights and analysis.

Click here to watch the game or download the NBC Sports App, your home for live streaming coverage of the Blackhawks.

Five Things to Watch:

1. Grab the first goal.

The Blackhawks have scored the game's first goal in seven of the last eight games, and of those seven, they've won six of them. Meanwhile, the Lightning have scored the first goal only 17 times in 48 games this season, and are 12-5-1 in those games. They're 9-17-4 when they allow the first goal, so getting out to a lead first will be important against a struggling Lightning team looking for signs of life.

2. Will the floodgates open for Jonathan Toews?

After a four-point game in a 4-2 win over Vancouver, the Blackhawks captain matched his point total over his previous nine games. He's up to 26 points on the season, which is now fifth among Chicago forwards. When Toews has offensive droughts, they usually last longer than they should. But when he gets hot, he gets extremely hot. Perhaps we'll see the floodgates open offensively.

3. A chance for the team lead in scoring.

With an empty-net goal on Sunday, Marian Hossa tied Artem Anisimov for the team-lead with 18 goals. Artemi Panarin is right behind with 17, and Patrick Kane isn't far either at 15. The Blackhawks had four 20-goal scorers last season, and haven't had more than that since the 2013-14 season. They're definitely on pace to hit four, but could they surprass that? Richard Panik, who scored another goal Sunday as well, is fifth with 11 goals while Ryan Hartman has 10. Toews is at eight, but a flurry after a drought could make things interesting.

4. The triplets reunited?

In an effort to jumpstart a struggling offense, Lightning coach Jon Cooper reunited the triplets line of Tyler Johnson, Nikita Kucherov and Ondrej Palat that was so successful during their 2015 playoff run in their latest game, a 5-3 loss to Arizona. It's unclear whether they will begin tonight's game on the same line, but if not, it's worth watching throughout the game whether they do. The Blackhawks have been coming at opponents in waves lately, so Cooper could look to separate the three to distribute the scoring.

5. Take advantage on special teams.

The Lightning have racked up the fifth-most penalty minutes in the league, and own a bottom-10 penalty kill unit at 80.1 percent. The Blackhawks are the second-least penalized team, and have converted on 17.9 percent of their power plays, which sits at 16th. But they haven't scored one on the man advantage in five straight games, going 0-for-9 during that span. Here's a chance to change that.

[SHOP: Gear up, Blackhawks fans!]

- Check out the latest stats and standings to make sure you’re ready for action

- Channel Finder: Make sure you know where to watch

- NBC Sports App FAQ: All your questions answered

- Latest on the Blackhawks: All of the most recent news and notes

- See what Blackhawks fans are talking about before, during and after the game with Blackhawks Pulse