Is Chicago going to be Rip’s City?


Dec 10

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The Bulls Friday finally opened training camp for the 2010-11 season, two months late because of the NBA labor dispute but still with the same questions hanging over the team as when it walked off the court in the United Center last spring after the conference finals loss to the Miami Heat.

Can the Bulls acquire more shooting, just a bit more scoring to free up Derrick Rose some and put up those few points that might have been enough last season to get to the NBA Finals?

After all, in the end, the Bulls held the Heat to under 90 points per game. But the Bulls averaged 87. Just someone else to make a shot here or there.

Which is why as practices finally began Friday the story was less the conditioning of Carlos Boozer, the injuries of Joakim Noah or what new goal there is for Derrick Rose.

It was whether the Bulls will be able to add that additional player, the shooting guard to replace Keith Bogans, who was kept out of practice, apparently for future transactions. Even though there has been continued talk that Dwight Howard will be traded, it appears the Bulls are not seriously involved in the pursuit and will concentrate on just adding an offensive player to their core which led the NBA with 62 wins last season.

The surprise Friday was shooting guard Richard Hamilton agreeing to a buyout of his two years left from the Detroit Pistons, making Hamilton, according to sources, the Bulls’ top target.

Hamilton had two seasons left and was owed about $20 million. He’d balked at a buyout previously, saying he wanted to be paid in full by the Pistons. But after a difficult season which included runins with former coach John Kuester and a ban from the team, Hamilton apparently decided to start over.

He reportedly accepted substantially less than he was owed and thus hopes to make up the difference in a long term deal. The Bulls can offer an annual salary beginning at $5 million and a source close to Hamilton said late Friday that he expects the three-time All-Star to sign with the Bulls.

Hamilton, a career 17.7 per game scorer, turns 34 in February. He is coming off his poorest season since his rookie year, though more because of the disciplinary actions with the coach.

He’s been on the Bulls wish list in the past, but only if he were bought out or released because of his big contract, which would have paid $12.5 million this season.

Hamilton is not a consistent three point shooter, actually more erratic season by season.

He led the NBA in 2005-06 at 45.8 percent, though with fewer than two attempts per game. But in 2009-10 he was under 30 percent on threes, though injured at times.

The 6-6 Hamilton is a tough veteran who, at times, can behave erratically on the court, often overwrought during physical action to his detriment. But he’s a tall guard who can be bothersome to someone like Dwyane Wade and is a good defender.

He’s more a mid-range shooter, but with a good ability to get to the basket and get fouled. He plays more like Reggie Miller than anyone in the game today, constantly moving and running off multiple screens to get open. The Bulls do a lot of that for Kyle Korver, but more in spurts. Hamilton has been a non stop runner whom the offense in Detroit would stop to accommodate. It presumably would take some adjustment all around.

“I think he has plenty left,” said a former teammate. “But is Rose going to stand around dribbling while Rip runs off four or five screens. He would help them.”

With the Pistons anxious to resuscitate Ben Gordon and use him more with Rodney Stuckey, it seemed clear Hamilton didn’t want to fight the crowded backcourt for another season.

Of course, until you have a deal you don’t have a deal as the Bulls have been walked to the basketball alter and left all too many times. So there has to be some backup plans. I suspect they look something like this:

1. Hamilton

2. Jamal Crawford: The former Bull probably could have signed already if he wanted the $5 million exception. But after making about $10 million last season he’s been looking for more. I’m not sure if they know anything, but on the basketball reference web site Crawford is pictured in a Bulls uniform. After a shaky first four seasons with the Bulls, Crawford settled into a solid sixth man role with the Hawks and became one of the league’s best. He’s a streaky scorer who can put up big numbers but a bit short on the defensive end. His big edge over the others is his ability as a combo guard to run offense and play point guard to move Rose off the ball and into the post at times.

3. Jason Richardson: Like Crawford, he’s been looking for more money than the Bulls can offer, though as the cap money is exhausted around the NBA the $5 million should look pretty good. He’s bigger than Crawford and should be a better defender, but isn’t always. He can be a bit erratic at times in his behavior. He’s made himself a big time spot up three point shooter, but also remains streaky. He gets traded a lot, playing for three teams in the last three years and has been in a lot of no defense systems.

4. Vince Carter: The reports from ESPN have him signing with the Dallas Mavericks after being released by the Suns. I actually like him better than most given his size and although slowing, his athleticism. The other big element missing from the Bulls in matching up with Miami is another athlete on the wing, and Carter is a great athlete. I’ve felt in the right system with greater demands he’d respond. Plus, he can be a good threat on threes as well in being over 37 percent for his career.

5. Kirk Hinrich: He’s injured now and maybe can’t play for a month or more. But if you are the Bulls you’re pretty certain to be in the playoffs. The second half and playoffs is what matters. Hinrich has become an excellent three point shooter, 42 percent last season, and we know he is a tough defender who always has given Dwyane Wade fits and doesn’t relent. He’d love to return to Chicago, but remains under contract with the Hawks for one more season at $8 million. But the Bulls have the pieces and with Keith Bogans being held out of practices perhaps he could be saved for some deal involving Hinrich

6. Josh Howard: Suffered that horrific knee injury in a game against the Bulls after being traded to Washington. He had some ugly incidents with the media in Dallas, but is generally regarded as misjudged. He’s got good size and is more a two/three as he’s not a great three point shooter. But he’s a tough guy who is good off the dribble, though health is the big issue.

7. O.J. Mayo: Would probably cost the Bulls someone like Taj Gibson in trade, and the Bulls likely want to keep their front line edge in tact. He has fallen back in Memphis to off the bench, though is a good three point shooter and legitimate starter. He had stardom predicted for him, but is probably not athletic enough. Memphis tried to trade him last February, and may try again if the price on retaining Marc Gasol gets too high.

8. Michael Redd: More of a bench guy and if you’re the Bulls it would seem you want to get a starter or stay with Bogans. Redd was once one of the best shooters in the NBA, an Olympian for his shot. But severe injuries to both knees have raised questions on whether he could return.

9. Carlos Delfino: Sort of a fallback guy if all else falls through. The Bulls were in serious talks for him last season, but that faded. He’s more of a small forward, a good three point shooter but shaky on defense.

10. Courtney Lee: He’s been a quiet target of the Bulls for a year or so, though there haven’t been serious talks as the Rockets’ roster is so in flux. Now it’s probably more difficult with the Rockets part of that failed three-tam trade involving Chris Paul. The Bulls long ago refused Houston’s interest in Omer Asik, and nothing much has happened from there.

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