Hamilton getting closer to return from injury

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Hamilton getting closer to return from injury

ATLANTA -- Before the majority of his teammates were even onthe bus to take them to Philips Arena for the Bulls Wednesday-morningshootaround -- sans Brian Scalabrine, his workout partner -- Rip Hamilton waslaunching shots, going through drills and perhaps most importantly, gettingjostled and hit in his effort to return from a right-shoulder injury. However,despite his considerable progress as of late, its unlikely the veteranshooting guard suits up Wednesday evening against the Hawks.Im trying to get as many shots as possible and get myworkout, in addition to the stuff Ive been trying to do in practice, so Imjust trying to get acclimated, get more strength in my shoulders, Hamiltonsaid before the teams shootaround. Theres still some pain in there, but itsgetting better each and every day. Im able to shoot. That was the biggestconcern because its my right side. Im able to get my shot off and I thinkthats the thing that Im really happy with.Well see how it goes today. Today was actually thefirst time I did a little bumping. Thats what me and Scal were doing, himchasing me and bumping, and having a little contact. It was good because thatsthe biggest thingme getting hitnow, the contact, he continued. I definitelythink so. Im happy with my progress. I know that its not going to bepain-free. We just want to prevent me re-aggravating it, anything of that sort,but theres going to be pain. But as long as I can get my hand over my shoulderand be able to shoot the ball, Ill be fine.

Added Bulls head coach Tom Thibideau: Hes doing fine.Game-time decision. Doing more and more. Hes very close.Hes had some contact, he went on to say. His legs aregreat, so hes over all those injuries. We want to make sure the strength isthere in the shoulder. Were very encouraged. Hes doing great right now.The 13-year NBA veteran admitted that workout sessionsarent the same as actual games, but since he prides himself on hisconditioning, Hamilton believes hell get in the swing of things soon after hiseventual return.The games are always different than practice, but Itrain myself to be the best-conditioned athlete in the NBA. But I think thebiggest thing is rhythm, timing. I think theyre the biggest things, trying tocatch your second wind when youre out there for the first time, he said. Theschedules been crazy. I tell people that. Its no secret why everybodysgetting hurt. The back-to-back-to-back games, the traveling, its an adjustmenton everybodys body, but I feel as though when youre out there playing, youforget everything. You forget that youre hurt, youre injured, theres pain oranything like that. The only thing youre focused on is the game and trying toget a win.Today was the first day we actually took a littlecontact on it, so the more, the better and thats the one thing that wereall -- me, Thibs -- really trying to figure out. OK, whens the right time to reallypush it, because you cant dictate contact on the floor when youre playing,so were just trying to figure out when is the best time to really push it,continued Hamilton, who noted that hell wear something protective on hisshoulder when he returns to game action. The guys have been doing an awesomejob. The guys that have been coming off the bench and stepping up, and playingstarters roles have really been awesome. Ronnies been awesome, C.J.s beenawesome, Lucas, Kyle. Those guys have been doing an unbelievable job, so I givethem a lot of credit for playing the way they have been playing and doing whatthey have been doing the last couple weeks.As far as the Bulls other currently-sidelined startingguard, Derrick Rose, the leagues reigning MVP is also on the road to recovery,though unlike Hamilton, he hasnt participated in full-contact drills yet.Hes doing more. Again, game-time decision tonight,said Thibodeau. Hes running now, on the court, so that parts good. Doingmore shooting, more moving. Hes coming along.Injuries aside, Thibodeau has other concerns -- specificallyrebounding and defense -- heading into Wednesdays game, coming off the seasonsworst loss to the Nuggets at home Monday.Weve been a great rebounding team all year. I thinkits one of our strengths. We gang rebound, really. Weve got to get everybodygoing and the more you go, the more you get, so youve got to make the effortto go and youve got to fight for the ball. Hopefully we can correct that, heexplained. Its not any one particular thing and your offense is also tiedinto it, so right now, were not playing with energy and intensity andconcentration. So, weve got to get that part back first and thats in allareas, and theres stretches in those games where weve played very well. Everygame tells you something and we have to correct the things were not doingwell, clean those things up and then strive to be more of a 48-minute team. Toplay with consistency and intensity is so important in this league. I think wewill respond well.

[PHOTO] Joe Maddon, Miguel Montero patch things up over a drink

[PHOTO] Joe Maddon, Miguel Montero patch things up over a drink

Despite the Cubs ending their 108-year World Series drought, Miguel Montero made offseason headlines for all the wrong reasons when he complained about his role in the Cubs' 2017 championship campaign.

Montero criticized Maddon's communication skills, catching rotation and bullpen decision-making after the team's Grant Park celebration. Maddon brushed off the criticism, and last week at spring training Montero said he hadn't spoke with the Cubs' skipper.

That tension appears to be all but a thing of the past, as Montero posted this picture of him and his manager sharing a drink together sporting nothing but smiles.

It's safe to say Montero would describe his relationship with Maddon now as: #WeAreGood.

Five Things to Watch: Blackhawks clash with Wild tonight on CSN

Five Things to Watch: Blackhawks clash with Wild tonight on CSN

Watch as the Blackhawks take on the Minnesota Wild tonight on CSN and streaming live on CSNChicago.com. Coverage begins at 6:30 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. Road warriors.

The Blackhawks have won six straight games away from the United Center, and are looking to make it a seventh in Minnesota tonight. They've scored the game's first goal in four of those wins, and in the other two, overcame 1-0 deficits to beat Dallas 5-3 and Edmonton 5-1, the latter of which they scored five unanswered goals.

2. Corey Crawford vs. Devan Dubnyk.

Crawford hasn't quite been the same since undergoing an emergency appendectomy on Dec. 3, but he turned in probably his best outing since then in the Blackhawks' last meeting against Minnesota on Feb. 8 when he stopped 35 of 38 shots in a 4-3 overtime win. He essentially stole two points, and prevented the Wild from picking up the extra one. Across from him tonight will be Dubnyk, who leads the league in wins (32), goals against average (1.97) and save percentage (.934).

3. Jonathan Toews on fire.

After a tough offensive drought earlier in the season that lasted longer than expected, the Blackhawks captain has six goals and 10 assists in his last 12 games, and upped his point total to 37, which now ranks fifth on the team. In the last meeting against Minnesota two weeks ago, Toews had a three-point night and scored the game winner in overtime. 

4. Mikael Granlund among league's most underrated players.

File Granlund under the category of players who don't get enough attention. He has 17 goals and 36 assists in 58 games this season, and his 53 points is tied with Jeff Carter and Artemi Panarin for 13th in the NHL's scoring race. The next highest point total on the Wild is Eric Staal with 45, an eight-point gap between him and Granlund. The 24-year-old forward registered his first career hat trick earlier this month, and also had a 12-game point streak just two weeks ago.

5. Ryan Hartman's closing in on 15 goals.

In Saturday's 3-1 loss to Edmonton, Hartman defended his teammate by fighting an Oilers defenseman that was practically twice his size. He called it a "no-brainer" to stick up for Tanner Kero and did well in the scrap, but it led to an Oilers power play and 10-minute misconduct which didn't do the Blackhawks any favors. He responded in a great way Sunday by scoring the game's first goal that helped his team win 5-1 in Buffalo. The next goal he scores will be No. 15, which would give the Blackhawks six 15-plus goal scorers on the year. They had only four a season ago.

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