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Bulls’ Rip Hamilton beginning to re-emerge at the right time

Updated: May 18, 2012 9:55AM

You almost have to knock on wood when you say it, but Richard Hamilton is quietly getting back in the groove.

While the Bulls continue to struggle with injuries and have lost their midseason rhythm, Hamilton started his seventh consecutive game Monday — his season-best. He even fell hard to the floor after a fast-break scramble in the first quarter and got up without incident.

In his first six games back after missing 15 games with a shoulder injury, Hamilton averaged 9.8 points while shooting 43 percent from the field (25-for-58) and hitting 5 of 10 three-point shots. More important, he’s showing few signs of rust.

‘‘He’s shown that he’s a very good player,’’ Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau said, ‘‘moving without the ball, catch-and-shoot situations, running the floor, unselfish. He’s missed a lot of time, so he’s still coming around with his timing, and I think that will get better as time goes on.’’

Unfortunately, with Derrick Rose and Luol Deng out, the Bulls’ best starting unit still hasn’t played together much.

‘‘The big adjustment is with Rip,’’ Thibodeau said. ‘‘The other guys have been together for a long time. ... I think [Rip’s] feeling really good. His lower body’s great. So that part is good. The more they play together, the better they’ll be.’’

The Bulls, though, have just five regular-season games left. They play at Charlotte and Miami on Wednesday and Thursday, then host the Dallas Mavericks on Saturday night.

Injury riddle

With Rose and Deng missing Monday night’s game against the Washington Wizards, the Bulls have lost 94 player-games to injury through 61 games. They lost 61 player-games in 82 regular-season games last season.

‘‘That’s the way the season has been, and not just for us. For everybody,’’ Thibodeau said. ‘‘You just have to deal with it. It’s part of the game. . . . I think our team has shown that we feel we have more than enough to win with.’’

Jimmy on the spot

With Deng out, rookie Jimmy Butler got an early call in the first half. Butler has made the most of limited minutes all season and did it again against with an alley-oop dunk from Kyle Korver to give the Bulls a 27-25 lead early in the second quarter.

Lincoln’s finest

Former Illinois All-American Brian Cook, the pride of downstate Lincoln and the son of former Chicagoan and NBA player Norm Cook, played briefly for the Wizards in the first half. Cook, in his ninth NBA season, was traded to the Wizards from the Los Angeles Clippers in March.

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