Without Derrick Rose and Luol Deng in the lineup on Monday, Richard Hamilton was poised for extended minutes. Hamilton played 34 minutes in Mondays loss to the Wizards, scoring 22 points on 9 of 20 shooting to go along with five rebounds and five assists. It was his most action since playing 36 minutes on Jan. 29 against Miami.
It was cool just to be out there, said Hamilton. I wanted to win, thats the biggest result at the end for me, but it was good to be out there playing in the second and fourth quarter.
Since returning to the lineup after missing 14 games with an injured right shoulder, hes averaging just 20.7 minutes per game.
Both he and head coach Tom Thibodeau acknowledge that they want to be smart with playing time and gradually build it up. But with five games remaining, the veteran shooting guard is ready for more.
Like Ive said, I think I can play the whole game, Hamilton said, smiling. Tonight was the first time that we really tested it over that 20 minutes limit, but I felt good especially on a back-to-back, so it was a good sign.
With Rose and Dengs status for Wednesdays game against the Charlotte Bobcats being uncertain, Thibodeau is pleased with what hes seen from the veteran shooting guard, who could be in line for another heavy workload.
The other guys have been together for a long time, said Thibodeau about the team still adjusting to what Hamilton brings. I think Rip is feeling really good. His lower body is great, so that part is good. The more they play together, the better they will be. Hes shown that hes a very good player moving without the ball, catch-and-shoot situations, running the floor and unselfish. Hes missed a lot of time, so hes still coming around with his timing and I think that will get better as time goes on.
Hamilton even admitted that he wants to take the brace off of his injured shoulder soon, but with as much time as hes missed already -- and only five games left until the playoffs - he wants to be cautious.
Hopefully I can take it off, he said. I dont want it on. Im still shooting a lot of my shots short. I want to take it off now, but its one of those things where if I take it off and it gets hit again and something happens, its bad. I think Ill take it off soon, though."