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Bulls weigh options for replacing injured Rip Hamilton

As organized and prepared as Tom Thibodeau is, it’s highly unlikely that the Bulls head coach actually hasn’t made up his mind about a replacement for Rip Hamilton against Indiana Tuesday night.

No, this is Thibodeau. The likely explanation for his ambiguity after the Monday practice is he doesn’t want anyone else to know who the starter will be.

“I’m not sure yet,’’ was the Thibodeau response to naming a replacement for Hamilton, who is out with a torn plantar fascia in his left foot.

Asked if Marco Belinelli or Jimmy Butler would be the leading candidates, it was a “could be’’ from Thibodeau.

What he would say was that no matter which player is put in that No. 2 spot, he would be comfortable with the decision.

“Yep, everybody we have has played well at one time or another, so I feel good about that position,’’ Thibodeau explained. “Marco has started a lot of games before, Jimmy has been playing terrific all season long, and we have some flexibility, too. Kirk [Hinrich] can go to the two, so we’ll be fine.’’

The media is seemingly not the only ones in this cat and mouse game, either. According to Butler, even the players have no idea who the starter would be.

“I really do not know,’’ Butler said. “Coach hasn’t said anything. He said he’s going to try out the lineups and see how everything is looking, and then he’ll let us know [Tuesday].’’

Hinrich, who is usually the starting point guard for the Bulls, did admit to playing some two in practice on Monday, which means in the scenario Nate Robinson would be the starting point, with Hinrich – who has played shooting guard before – would then try and fill the vacancy left in Hamilton’s departure.

“I would be comfortable doing whatever,’’ Hinrich said. “I’ve been working in on a dummy offense at the two a little bit, just so I would know it. I would have no problem with anything [Thibodeau] did, to be honest, as long as it’s what we would want to do as a team and the direction we’d want to go with to give us the best chance to win.’’

Belinelli had been jumped by Butler the last week as far as minutes handed out to the reserves, but Butler also seems to be a player that feeds off playing along side of key reserve Taj Gibson. That duo might serve the Bulls better to stay together, especially because of the defense and energy that unit has been bringing.

Meanwhile, Thibodeau insisted throughout training camp that when Belinelli is on the court, the offense functioned much the same way it does when Hamilton is on the court.

“We’re going to look at everything and take a look at what makes the most sense for us,’’ Thibodeau said. “We’ll go from there. I like the way Jimmy’s played, and Marco’s playing better and better. We have a lot of things going in the right direction right now.’’

As for Hamilton, the diagnosis for the torn plantar fascia in his left foot is still the same.

“Basically, could be a week, could be two weeks, could be longer,’’ Thibodeau added. “Once he feels good enough to play, he’ll be back.’’



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