Will Hamilton return to the same Bulls team?


Mar 6

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The Bulls wanted to get a veteran player like Richard Hamilton for the playoffs. It looks like that’s what it might be.

Not really, as the Bulls Tuesday confirmed Hamilton had suffered just a right shoulder bruise and sprain and contusion instead of, as feared, something more serious when he collided with Roy Hibbert just over a minute into Monday’s win over Indiana.

The Bulls are listing Hamilton day-to-day, though given his history this season, the Bulls’ cautious approach with him, and the nature of the injury, I’d be surprised if Hamilton played during the next two weeks. After next week, the Bulls have a lighter schedule and a stretch of just one game in four days. I could see Hamilton sitting through that as, after all, the goal with him now is being ready for the playoffs.

Although this will be the third stretch of games Hamilton is missing, this last injury probably was less worrisome for the Bulls as it was more an aberration than a recurrence of any of the leg injuries that limited Hamilton to playing 15 of the first 39 games.

It does to some raise the question of whether Hamilton is brittle and injury prone, though that wasn’t the case until the last two seasons. Hamilton averaged 74 games per season his first 10, though 50 games per season the last two. However, part of that was in disputes with the team. But the Bulls likely didn’t expect Hamilton to play a full season, anyway, given him playing irregularly the last two seasons. So some of this was not unexpected, though Monday’s injury was more routine. That it isn’t serious likely gives Hamilton a full month after his return to work back in with the regular starters.

Which suggests the Bulls aren’t likely to panic looking for a personnel change.

But the thought has to be there after so many missed Hamilton games and the NBA trading deadline next Thursday, March 15, the day after the Bulls play their first home game of the season against the Miami Heat.

One reason the Bulls were thrilled that Hamilton surprisingly became available because of an unexpected buyout is his defense, particularly against Dwyane Wade, who has difficulties against Hamilton’s size and constant motion on offense. It’s unlikely the Bulls, after not finding that sort of player until Hamilton fell into their laps, are going to find him now in a late season trade. Plus, Hamilton will return. So if the Bulls were to make a deal for a guard, he’d mostly be a reserve.

And then how much can you afford to give up for a backup?

That seems to me the biggest issue facing the Bulls at this trading deadline and why I believe the odds of a deal are small.

After all, this is a 32-8 team with the league’s best record. That despite missing Derrick Rose for 10 games and Luol Deng for seven. C.J. Watson also is out now with a sprained ankle and given the severity of the sprain it seems questionable whether he’ll play this week, though he also is listed day to day.

So facing the Bulls is whether you want to begin breaking up the chemistry and momentum with a significant change. It’s one thing to bring back Mike James or take a shot at someone perhaps about to be released, like Anthony Carter with Toronto. And do you want to risk losing what may be your best matchup edge against the Miami Heat, your interior size with Taj Gibson and Omer Asik backing up Joakim Noah and Carlos Boozer. Just about every team whom the Bulls have talked to has asked about their front court players. And can you afford to lose Gibson with no defensive backup to Boozer? And Asik, whose loss against Miami in last season’s playoffs was viewed as a turning point by the coaching staff?

It’s basically unprecedented for a league leading team after the midway point to make major changes. The Bulls didn’t have Boozer and Noah large parts of last season. This is really the first run with this group. You figure the Bulls will let them take it and see if they are up to it. And then if not make changes, though as the saying goes, you can only play for the current championship.

There also is the other main issue facing the Bulls that still hangs out there and wasn’t precisely addressed with the acquisition of Hamilton, though it’s difficult to do so. When Rose is trapped and pressured, which every team will do in the playoffs, do you have someone else who can make plays off the dribble and take pressure off Rose? Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau has used Watson some in that role in tandem with Rose and we’ll likely see more of that again.

Though the question has been raised now about given Hamilton going out again do you make a move because you may not be able to count on him in the playoffs? And you still could use a perimeter playmaker.

I have no issues with the acquisition of Hamilton given he’s looked helpful and did give Wade problems in the game with Miami. Injuries happen, and he still is on target for a return and the playoffs.

But is there a deal to make? I’m dubious because I don’t see the Bulls dealing any of their interior players, especially given the loss of Kurt Thomas. Plus, their reserves basically can be free agents and aren’t considered to have great value. Their No. 1 draft pick? With the best record it’s No. 30, and teams always prefer No. 31 as it doesn’t carry with it a guaranteed contract. The Charlotte pick, which could be lottery, but only if is in 2016? The way the Bobcats are building, you might hold onto that now, though I’ve long advocated moving it. Given it’s more than four years away, and most general managers get fired before then, it’s not a hot shopping item.

— Stephen Jackson: The Bulls will see him when they play the Bucks Wednesday, though they’ll have to watch the end of bench or trainers’ room as Jackson doesn’t play. He’s a big, physical shooting guard with range and who makes plays. Which sounds ideal. Except he makes another $10 million next season, wants an extension on that, which has led to putting this season, and when he did play this season he seemed to have little left, shooting under 30 percent on threes and fairly disinterested.

— Kirk Hinrich: The former Bull is basically at career lows across the board and playing irregularly. The Bulls made some inquiries before signing Hamilton, and Hinrich would fit backing up both backcourt positions. But with an $8 million expiring contract, the Bulls would have to give up two rotation players to match salaries and then something to make it worthwhile for the Hawks, which likely means a No. 1 pick. For a short term rental for a backup you likely can get cheaply this summer it hardly seems reasonable.

— Ray Allen: Wrong time for Boston to win five straight and get back into things. There’s been no secret they’d like to get something for some of these star guys, but they’re not likely to give up the season for spare parts and future No. 1’s. If you would give them a player they’ll move forward with, perhaps. Luol Deng? Of course not, but it doesn’t appear the Celtics are desperate. Plus Allen is considered likely to want to return to Boston next season because of family considerations.

— Monta Ellis: Most GM’s feel they’re the team most likely to make a major move because they want to. And Ellis has been the most likely to go. They’d likely want you to take benched Andris Biedrins and his $18 million after this season (fat chance) and would want a big or a high level starting point guard.

— O.J. Mayo: There was talk last season the Grizzlies would take Gibson. I doubt the Bulls give him up given how frequently Thibodeau sits Boozer late in games. But Memphis seems less likely to move him at all now given Zach Randolph is coming back and they feel they can make a playoff run. Plus, the owner is trying to buy the Dodgers. They seem done with saving money.

— Courtney Lee: A long mentioned name for the Bulls, though he’s not the ball handler type and more a defensive guy. The way they’ve been playing you figure Houston would much rather give up Kevin Martin, who would cost you two or three regulars and a very large contract I can’t see the Bulls taking.

— Ben Gordon: Chicago fans seem to love their old favorites. I happened to watch some of the Pistons win over the Lakers Tuesday and saw Ben dribbling on a breakaway with a teammate a few steps ahead. Ben went all the way. He’s a shot maker and a good one coming off the bench, and the Pistons would love to move him, which tells you enough. The Bulls moved on once the Pistons paid him eight figures through 2014. Similarly with Tayshaun Prince’s amazing four year deal. The Bulls were interested after last season, but not at that price for a guy in decline who’d also cost you two regulars.

— Anthony Morrow: His name has been mentioned a few times after he led the league in shooting a while back. Not really a playmaker, though a good shooter. The Bulls passed on him back in free agency in 2010 when they could have signed him and likely would again.

— Jamal Crawford: Still another former Bull whom the Bulls did look at as well before he signed with Portland. But things have not gone well there and he likely can be had now. Although he’s having a poor season shooting 40 percent overall, he is a big shot maker and can handle the ball and make plays. I don’t see what the Bulls have the Trailblazers would want. After all, they’re not a team that rebuilds with draft picks. Could you talk them into Watson, Jimmy Butler and a No. 1? Perhaps, assuming you’d give that much up for a short rental. I think Portland ends up doing better if they trade Crawford.

— Michael Beasley: He doesn’t much fit the Bulls backcourt needs, though he can score. I doubt with his horrible defense and selfish, never pass play the Bulls would be much interested.

— Lamar Odom: He once could make plays as an unusually versatile player. But he seems in this horrendous funk being out of Los Angeles and away from his reality show studios and has been awful in his return to the Mavs after another long, unexplained absence.

— Tyrus Thomas: Just kidding.

Take your time, Rip. I think the Bulls will be waiting.

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