Rip Hamilton expected to make debut Tuesday


Dec 19

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Wow, it seems like preseason started just a few days ago and Tuesday in the United Center is the Bulls final preseason game.

Oh, right, it did start Friday and will conclude Tuesday. So Tuesday is the game that matters, at least some, the last preseason game, and the Bulls should get a good, long look at newly acquired Rip Hamilton.

And Rip is rarin’ to go.

I can’t help myself, but there never has been a better nickname for alliteration. And the way things apparently have been going in practice with Hamilton has been his expected iteration.

That being Hamilton’s relentless energy running back and forth around screens and off pin downs. Teammates and coaches apparently have been marveling at his relentless approach and ability.

Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau has been saying he’ll decide whether Hamilton will play after Tuesday’s morning shoot around. But, of course, Hamilton should play. He’s been very good in practice, and Thibodeau said when camp started the second exhibition game was the one to take more seriously.

And there’s no question Hamilton is going to be a serious part of this Bulls team.

There seems little doubt Hamilton eventually will be the starter for his shooting, the threat he is that will occupy the defense and a very good defensive attitude and posture. Plus, you figure the Bulls will also want to maintain continuity with the solid reserve unit that also features Ronnie Brewer.

Hamilton, teammates say, is proving to be a good passer both coming off his screens and seeing the court. He’s in excellent shape and his activity and alacrity belies his age and dozen years in the league.

The other big surprise in camp has been the play of rookie Jimmy Butler, who was impressive in the opening preseason game in Indianapolis Friday. Butler has continued to shoot the ball unexpectedly well, and has been a resolute defender. He’s played a surprisingly good all around game, though he does come to an unusually deep team and will have to find places to play.

As we know, Thibodeau likes to use his regulars a lot, and I don’t believe that will change much even with this compressed season. Thibodeau likes to point to the big minutes played by all the 30-somethings when he was in Boston, and he does note that when the Bulls were winning championships Michael Jordan, Scottie Pippen and Horace Grant all averaged between 35 and 40 minutes per game. And that was with long playoff series.

So I’d expect Thibodeau to begin extending the minutes Tuesday against the Pacers.

It’s also another chance to get Carlos Boozer going.

Boozer didn’t have a particularly good start against the Pacers Friday, though it seemed he hadn’t played that much basketball even if he was much thinner. Figure he’s gotten more floor time in the last week and it should be a good chance to see some improvement. The Bulls have said they are committed to going more inside to Boozer, so I’d look for that again early in the game.

Boozer, like him or not, is going to be a vital player in the Bulls chances. He’s going to play a lot of minutes and his effectiveness could be the fulcrum on which the Bulls season inevitably balances. After all, it was a difficult start for Boozer last season with an injury as soon as camp began combined with a new system and new environment. All of that should now be past as Boozer seems healthy and well settled. So perhaps the Bulls get the best out of him now as he just turned 30 a few weeks ago.

Boozer had a rough go Friday with Tyler Hansbrough and it’s possible the Pacers will play their big free agent acquisition, David West, returning from knee surgery. The Bulls would like to see Boozer more aggressive and attacking the defense rather than settling for fadeaways, though when he settled down in Friday’s game late his passing from the high post was good.

I’d expect to see Thibodeau test Joakim Noah’s stamina as Noah never really regained his wind after returning from hand surgery last February. The Bulls want to see the Noah of last November when he was getting high double/doubles until his injury in Sacramento.

C.J. Watson was especially sharp shooting against the Pacers with Derrick Rose in early foul trouble, and that accuracy apparently has continued through camp. With that foul trouble, Rose never really got much chance to play out of the post Friday. So that might also be something Thibodeau wants to employ.

It’s the last dress rehearsal. Almost time for the big show to open, and where better than on Christmas Day in Hollywood.

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