Bulls welcome new arrival Hamilton with open arms

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Bulls welcome new arrival Hamilton with open arms

As Bulls players got word of Richard Hamilton's acquisition after Wednesday's evening practice the message was clear: Rip is welcome with open arms in Chicago.

Tom Thibodeau was the lone holdout in post-practice media interviews, declining to talk about Hamilton -- who arrived at the Berto Center late Wednesday and officially signed his contract -- specifically, but the second-year head coach was willing to speak in hypothetical terms.

"If we sign a player and he's ready to go, yeah, just like everybody else, we'll evaluate him once he's here, we'll see what he can do and then we'll move forward," said the reigning NBA Coach of the Year. "Veterans pick up things a lot quicker. Guys that have been around, they understand the league, they understand the opponents. They have to learn your system, the terminology, their teammates, but things do move along a lot quicker with veterans.

"It's similar- - when you sign somebody now -- to making a trade. The thing that's different is you're coming out of the offseason and you don't know where guys are, conditioning-wise."

Hamilton's potential backcourt mate, Derrick Rose, was a bit more effusive about the organization obtaining the shooting guard, who will reportedly agree to a two-year, 10-million contract, with a team option for a partially-guaranteed third season.

"Rip, to me -- not only to me, but to the team -- I think he's a good fit, someone with experience is definitely going to help us. Him winning a championship, being in the Finals will definitely help this team. We're a young team. I've told a lot of people that with him, I'm going to have a lot more assists this year with him shooting the ball the way he does and the way he's in condition, he's going to be able to keep up," said the league MVP. "I think with him, it's definitely going to open up everybody's game. With me working on my three-point shooting -- me kicking it to him, him kicking back to me, me kicking it to the corner to Lu and him making shots -- I think it's going to open up everybody's game, where everybody's going to have open shots."

Luol Deng is possibly the player most familiar with his new teammate, as his brother Ajou Deng played on the University of Connecticut's 1999 NCAA title-winning team with Hamilton.

"He's going to help us out a lot. Offensively, just another option, but really, just his whole game," said Deng, who's known Hamilton since he was 14. "He's a guy who won it and went to the Finals, and the conference finals, so he's seen all of it.

"You add a player like Rip, who knows how to play and is going to help out a lot, it's definitely going to make us better. As soon as he comes, we're looking forward to it."

Deng believes the adjustment process for the veteran will be an easy transition.

"Rip is not a player who needs the ball in his hands. He moves without the ball really well and the way we play, that's going to fit us perfectly," he said. "He's really good at shooting the ball. With the way teams are playing us, just having him on the floor is going to spread the floor even more. It's going to be great for our bigs inside, for the rotation. He's a great shooter that's respected and the defense is going to pay attention to him.

"The way we play, with Derrick playmaking for everyone and everyone moving, it's going to be really easy for him and the sets that we have, it's going to be similar to the sets that we use with Kyle Korver, that he's been using for his whole career."

More importantly for Deng, a longtime friend -- and Central Division rival -- now becomes a teammate.

"Throughout the years, I used to go up to Detroit to watch the Pistons play," said Deng, recalling his pre-NBA days. "I got to know those guys before I was even in the NBA.

"For me, I'm really excited to see Rip here, not just basketball-wise, but he's helped me a lot with my game when I was younger, just giving me tips and stuff, so having him by my side is what I'm really happy about."

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Nikola Mirotic reflects on pump fakes, maddening March, future in Chicago

Nikola Mirotic reflects on pump fakes, maddening March, future in Chicago

If there's a more maddening player in the Eastern Conference than Nikola Mirotic, that player's psychologist should be getting paid double considering Bulls fans have been talking to themselves about Mirotic so much over the past three years.

And as they've reached no conclusion on Mirotic, along with many other sage minds, only one thing is for certain: March is his month.

Meaning it's the month where it becomes maddening to watch him play and probably equally as maddening for his teammates who've watched his inconsistencies for the better part of four months or so.

Averaging 16.0 points and 5.9 rebounds in 41 career March games, it's the only full month where Mirotic averages in double figures for his career—meaning there's a lot of inconsistencies to wade through to get to the proverbial pot of gold.

In 2014-15, he emerged as the NBA's best fourth-quarter scorer that month when the Bulls were without both Derrick Rose and Jimmy Butler. Last season, he came back fresh after an appendectomy took a big chunk of his year.

This year, there's no big macro reason. He's just playing definitively, making quick movements and it's paying off as his two best scoring games took place within a four-day span (28 against both Detroit and Milwaukee).

"Right now, you see I'm shooting without hesitation," Mirotic said to CSNChicago.com. "Just catch and shooting. It's a great feeling."

No word on whether Mirotic hears the fans in the arena or the twitterverse screaming for him to ditch the pump fake that he actually admits it got in his head, but this season has been a roller coaster of the most dramatic kind, as the Bulls are still vying for playoff positioning with eight games remaining in the regular season.

"Sometimes, especially when I'm reading you guys (media), Niko pump fake, pump fake," Mirotic said with a smile. "Okay, no more pump fakes, just fire that ball. I'm laughing because you guys are (right)…that's true. You guys want me to shoot. It doesn't look good when you pump fake every time you have a wide-open shot."

Being penciled in as a training camp starter due to the need for floor spacing, Taj Gibson quickly outplayed Mirotic for the power forward spot. Then Mirotic's up and down, down and up, season began.

Kind of like his pump fake that often drew more defensive attention for it's predictability than effectiveness, stability has been hard to find for a player many have been waiting on since the day he was drafted in 2011.

"I know the defenses are ready for my pump fake so now just like, shoot the ball," Mirotic said. "I've been spending a lot of hours working on my shot before practice, after practice, trying to catch the feeling."

Better late than never or too late?

That's the question surrounding Mirotic and he knows it, being aware of his status as a restricted free-agent-to-be, along with his trade value a month ago being so low, the Bulls could only get a future second-round pick for him from teams.

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With the Bulls having so many questions going into the future, who knows if they want to go through the up-and-down, down-and-up cycle with a talented player yet again, with a big-time financial commitment.

In a sense, Mirotic knows he's left plenty on the table as far as his play through the years and seems to be content with playing with a sense of freedom as the season concludes, whether he's back with the Bulls or not for next year and beyond.

"I just wanna leave a good impression for the Bulls," Mirotic said. "Whatever decision they make. It's been a pleasure. A lot of people dream to be here, I was one of those guys when I was in Europe. I was really like, I wanna go there and play for the Bulls. The history they have. For me, it's a dream come true. Whatever decision they make, I make, whatever. I don't know. The years here have been great. I know it's been up and down. It's been a pleasure and I just wanna finish right."