Is Rip the Heat stopper?

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Is Rip the Heat stopper?

I must admit, initially, I wasnt overly excited about the Bulls decision to sign Richard Hamilton as their new starting shooting guard.

Sure, hes a huge upgrade over Keith Bogans, but my biggest concern was over how much gas he had left in the tank after 12 NBA seasons, and multiple lengthy playoff runs in Detroit. And, oh yeah, his well-publicized feud with Pistons coach John Kuester last season that resulted in Hamilton being exiled from the team for a few weeks.

We all knew Rip was a great player in Detroit: three All-Star selections, six-straight conference finals and an NBA championship in 2004. But could he still play at that high level now, especially considering hell turn 34 in February?

Judging by what we saw in his Bulls debut, the answer is yes. It looked like Hamilton had been with the Bulls for years, operating smoothly and efficiently in the half-court offense, hitting open jumpers and finding the open man when he was double teamed coming off screens. Having Rip in the lineup should be a big help to Carlos Boozer, who figures to get several easy baskets when the defense jumps out on Hamilton.

Rip might be starting his 13th NBA season, but hes in phenomenal shape, and was able to get out on the fastbreak and run on the wing with one of the fastest players in the league, Derrick Rose.

The challenge for Tom Thibodeau and his staff will be not burning Hamilton out during the condensed 66-game regular season. Sure, landing one of the top seeds for the Eastern Conference playoffs is important, but it seems almost inevitable the Bulls will be looking at a best-of-seven series against the Heat somewhere down the line. If Thibodeau can limit Hamilton to 25-28 minutes a game during the regular season, then Rip should be fresh for a battle with Dwyane Wade and company come playoff time.

Hamilton is no stranger to playoff series with Wade, LeBron James, Ray Allen and Paul Pierce over the last 8 years, and hes more than held his own. Rip is one of only a handful of players to average over 20 points in more than 100 career playoff games. And, writers in Miami will tell you hes given Wade fits with his tireless running around screens on the offensive end, and 6-7 length on the defensive end.

So, is Hamilton the missing ingredient to get the Bulls past Miami and into the NBA Finals? Only time will tell, but judging on past performance he certainly gives the Bulls a better chance to match up with Miamis perimeter stars. When the Heat send double teams at Rose, Hamilton will be on the wing waiting to make them pay. Hes also not afraid to take the big shot with a playoff series on the line.

Long term, the Bulls might have been better off pursuing younger shooting guard options like O.J. Mayo, Arron Afflalo, Marcus Thornton or Nick Young, but none of those players has any meaningful playoff experience.

Lets face it, the Bulls title window is open right now. Given the uncertainties of a shortened season, why not add another proven veteran and go all in for an NBA title? The Bulls have some future assets like Charlottes No. 1 draft pick and the rights to European star Nikola Mirotic that might allow them to make a big-time trade, and reload in a couple years.

So for now the motto is: "Lets Rip and Run to an NBA title."

Fast Break Morning Update: Where do Bulls stand as trade deadline looms?

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USA TODAY

Fast Break Morning Update: Where do Bulls stand as trade deadline looms?

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Bulls' Jimmy Butler mum on trade talk as deadline approaches

Bulls' Jimmy Butler mum on trade talk as deadline approaches

NEW ORLEANS—The trade talk is swirling and unavoidable, as it’ll be a topic of discussion through All-Star weekend as Jimmy Butler enters his third All-Star weekend and first as a starter.

Certainly not the only one who has to deal with such a thing, as Carmelo Anthony has a bigger mess on his hands with the Knicks and Sacramento’s DeMarcus Cousins is always mentioned as being in the periphery of changing addresses.

In his true politically-correct mode, Butler couldn’t decide if the constant trade talk was a compliment, a distraction or none of the above.

“I don’t know. I think that as long as somebody is reading, talking about something it makes for a great story,” Butler said at All-Star availability in New Orleans Friday afternoon. “I don’t know if I deserve to be traded? I don’t know. It’s not my job. It’s my job to play basketball to the best of my abilities.”

He took slight umbrage to the notion that the Bulls were a better team when Butler got there and before he emerged as an All-Star player compared to them hovering around .500 for the last two seasons.

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“So I should get worse and the team will be better?” he queried.

But there is a big school of thought that the return on a Butler trade will be better for the Bulls in the long run, as if he’s holding the development of the franchise back with his play.

The Boston Celtics are Butler’s biggest suitor but certainly haven’t put all their resources to the center of the table, leaving Butler dangling in a sense. A reporter who worked for the Celtics brought up the emergence of Isaiah Thomas, the NBA’s leading scorer, and called Thomas “a teammate” of Butler’s.

Knowing how the comment would be taken if it wasn’t corrected, Butler said Thomas was his teammate “this weekend” and not trying to speak any speculation into existence.

Although he spoke glowingly of Thomas when prompted, he wasn’t going to give any conversation any more real estate than necessary. He hears enough trade talk on the regular and it’s hard for even the best person to tune it out.

“I don’t pay attention to it. Obviously it comes up. Control what you can control,” Butler said. “You can’t control what people write, what people think should happen. Majority of the time, it doesn’t happen. Sometimes it does, majority of the time it doesn’t.”