Chicago Bulls

Hamilton makes his return to Bulls' lineup

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Hamilton makes his return to Bulls' lineup

Rip Hamilton made his return to the Bulls lineup in Saturday nights 87-77 win over the Wizards at the United Center and while he scored a modest nine points in just under 15 minutes of playing time, his health was something that optimism could be gleaned from after missing nearly a month of action with a torn left plantar fascia.

MORE: No contact yet, but Rose returns to practice; set to travel with team

I felt pretty good. It was sore, but I kind of told the trainers the adrenaline, being on the floor made it easy for me to not think about the pain. But I felt good. I was able to get to my spots on the floor and that was the biggest thing that I was worried about the change in direction especially when somebodys guarding me and I have to take a hit, Hamilton said afterwards. Tonight was just adrenaline. Once I came over to the bench, I tried to keep heat on it because its still sore. It still hurts, but its one of those things where it really doesnt limit me to moving and cutting. But it hurts. Right now, its just the getting through the pain part.

Bulls team physician Dr. Brian Cole said I cant hurt it anymore than what it is. Mentally, thats what I think of. Theres no way I can hurt it any further. It tore, so thats a benefit for me when Im out there playing, to really stop on a cut and really take the contact.

Hamilton revealed that hes on a minutes limit, prescribed by Bulls head coach Tom Thibodeau, who the veteran shooting guard joked, might be the doctor and the coach, although Thibodeau didnt inform him when that restriction would be lifted.

Thibodeau said that he wants to keep me between 15 to 20 minutes per game, Hamilton said.

Thibodeau himself was positive about Hamiltons outing Saturday night, Taking everything into consideration, the amount of time hes been out."

In the second half, he had a pretty good rhythm going, the coach went on to say. He created separation, moving extremely well without the ball, so that was a big plus. We need his minutes, we need his shots, we need his points.

RELATED: Multiple options have emerged at the wing for Thibodeau

Hamilton wasnt surprised that he knocked down shots That doesnt go anywhere, he quipped but complimented his teammates for locating him on the floor and putting him in the right positions to be successful.

I thought the guys did an excellent job of finding me in spots where I can make shots. I missed a few that I felt I should make, but thats just not being out there. But I felt good. I was surprised at good I felt, especially the second half. I felt a little better, got that first wind under my belt, he explained.

The biggest part for me was stopping and going. With my style of play, I like to get underneath the basket and bang a little bit, then go one way, then change directions and go the opposite way, and that was the scary part for me, coming into the game because I was like, All right, I know I can shoot because weve been shooting in practice. The biggest thing for me is being able to stop on a dime coming off a screen and getting my shot off, and I was able to do it.

NBA economic reality could speed up Bulls rebuild

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USA TODAY

NBA economic reality could speed up Bulls rebuild

In case you missed it this morning, ESPN's Tim McMahon and Bobby Marks collaborated on an excellent piece detailing how the irresponsible spending by NBA teams last summer could impact a star-studded free agent class in 2018.

Which is music to the ears of Bulls' front office executives John Paxson and Gar Forman, who are hoping to be a major player on the free agent market next year.

The ESPN report projected only nine teams having cap space to bid on a free agent class that could include Kevin Durant, LeBron James, Russell Westbrook, Paul George, DeMarcus Cousins, Chris Paul, Isaiah Thomas, Carmelo Anthony, DeAndre Jordan, LaMarcus Aldridge, Avery Bradley, Brook Lopez, Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, Wilson Chandler, Danny Green, Enes Kanter and Greg Monroe, along with restricted free agents like Nikola Jokic, Joel Embiid, Andrew Wiggins, Jabari Parker, Gary Harris, Jusuf Nurkic, Marcus Smart, Rodney Hood, Julius Randle, Dante Exum, Aaron Gordon and Clint Capela.

Bad summer not to have any spending money.

But that's exactly what Paxson and Forman were anticipating when they chose not to get involved in the reckless spending triggered by the league's new TV deal last summer. We all know about some of the terrible contracts handed out including a four-year, $72 million deal to Joakim Noah, four years, $64 million for Timofey Mozgov and Portland spending almost $150 million to lock up reserves Allen Crabbe and Evan Turner for four years.

The Bulls signed Dwyane Wade, Rajon Rondo and Isaiah Canaan last summer, but avoided any salary commitment beyond two years. Both Rondo and Canaan were bought out of the team options the Bulls held for next season.

Meanwhile, the Trail Blazers are now in such a deep luxury tax hole that they basically gave Crabbe away in a trade with Brooklyn earlier this week, immediately waiving the player they got back, power forward Andrew Nicholson, under the league's stretch provision. Portland figures to be one of at least 10 teams paying the luxury tax for the 2018-19 season.

I know what many of you are thinking, "Why will 2018 free agency be any different than in years past?" Yes, the Bulls missed out on primary targets James, Wade and Chris Bosh in 2010, and they failed to land Anthony in 2014. But with so many teams capped out, the Bulls will face less competition in pursuing the players they want most next summer.

We've all heard the rumors about James wanting to finish his career in L.A., and it's unlikely Durant, Westbrook, George or Paul would have any interest in coming to Chicago. But the Bulls could get significantly better right away in a weakened Eastern Conference by adding one or two players from a list of unrestricted free agents that could be looking for a new situation, including Cousins, Jordan, Bradley, Thomas, Caldwell-Pope, Kanter, Chandler and Green. They also could use their cap space to make a massive cap offer to a restricted free agent whose team is already in the luxury tax.

Of course, the Bulls have decisions to make with their own roster as well. They still haven't re-signed Niko Mirotic, and any contract beyond one season will reduce their cap space next summer. Plus, the key player coming back in the Jimmy Butler deal, shooting guard Zach LaVine, will be a restricted free agent next summer, and if he comes back 100 percent from ACL surgery, could command a multi-year contract starting at $20 million or more.

The Bulls have contract options on the rookie deals of Bobby Portis, Kris Dunn, Cam Payne, Jerian Grant, Denzel Valentine and Lauri Markkanen, while Paul Zipser's $1.5 million salary is not guaranteed for 2018-19.

Paxson said the Bulls are committed to re-building through the draft, and the hope is they'll wind up with a top 3 pick after next year's lottery to grab a franchise changing talent like Missouri's Michael Porter, Jr., International star Luka Doncic and 7-footers DeAndre Ayton of Arizona and Mohamed Bamba of Texas.

Looking at the big picture, if LaVine comes back 100 percent, Dunn emerges as a legit starting point guard and Markkanen shows potential as a stretch 4, the Bulls rebuild could move quickly. Adding one of the top players in next year's draft would be the first step, then Paxson and Forman would be armed with somewhere between $40-50 million dollars in cap space to pursue an impact free agent or two.

Bulls fans remember how long it took to re-build the team after the end of the Jordan era in 1998. Jerry Krause couldn't land a major free agent, and the Tyson Chandler-Eddy Curry experiment failed badly.

Let's hope Paxson and Forman have more luck this time around. At least they'll have a built-in advantage when the 2018 free agent market opens for business next July with the Bulls projected to have more cap space available than any other team in the league.

Bulls Talk Podcast: Why Bulls fans should not feel like they 'missed out' on trading for Kyrie Irving

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Bulls Talk Podcast: Why Bulls fans should not feel like they 'missed out' on trading for Kyrie Irving

On the latest Bulls Talk Podcast, Mark Schanowski, Kendall Gill, and Kevin Anderson break down the Kyrie Irving trade rumors, Derrick Rose’s move to Cleveland, and Kendall’s appearance in the ‘Big 3’.

Kendall shares what it was like when he wanted out of Charlotte, and how Rose to the Cavs only works if Kyrie is gone.

The trio also explains why Bulls fans should not feel like they ‘missed out’ on trading for Irving. Plus behind-the-scenes of KG’s hometown return to the court.

Listen to the full episode at this link or in the embedded player below: