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Bulls guard Richard Hamilton could be back in biz vs. Wiz

Bulls guard Richard Hamiltlooks pass ball front Sacramendefender Tyreke Evans first quarter Chicago Bulls-SacramenKings NBA game Wednesday October 31 2012

Bulls guard Richard Hamilton looks to pass the ball in front of Sacramento defender Tyreke Evans in the first quarter of the Chicago Bulls-Sacramento Kings NBA game Wednesday October 31, 2012 at the United Center. | Tom Cruze~Sun-Times

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The facts: 7, Ch. 9, 1000-AM.

Updated: January 30, 2013 6:10AM



When a starter returns from injury, Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau always reinserts him into the starting lineup.

But after practice Friday, he said there’s a chance he could deviate from that custom.

Thibodeau indicated that shooting guard Richard Hamilton (torn plantar fascia in left foot) initially could come off the bench but said he hadn’t made a decision either way.

Hamilton made it through his first full practice since the injury without any setbacks. He’s a game-time decision Saturday against the Wizards at the United Center. Hamilton said he’ll have a better idea about his status when he meets with Thibodeau after the shootaround Saturday morning.

“As long as he doesn’t have any problems, which I can’t foresee — he hasn’t had them for the last couple of days — then he’ll be a go,” Thibodeau said. “How much he plays, we’ll see once he gets out there.

“The encouraging thing is he has done quite a bit over the last week, and we did some scrimmaging today, and it was fine. He’s got it ramped up pretty good, and the next day, there haven’t been any problems.

“In practice, you try to simulate gamelike conditions as much as you can, but it’s never quite the same. The intensity of a game is unique, and we’ll see how he responds to that.”

There would be no questions regarding Hamilton’s role if it weren’t for the superb play of Marco Belinelli, who has started the last 12 games Hamilton has missed.

As a starter, Belinelli is averaging 15.3 points. While his averages were expected to improve because of the increase in minutes, his field-goal percentage also has risen dramatically.

He’s shooting 43.2 percent from the field as a starter compared to 36.8 as a sub. Belinelli has flourished when allowed to get into more of a rhythm.

“In Detroit, I played [small forward] some when we went small,” Hamilton said. “[Belinelli’s] smart. He’s a guy that really knows how to play, and hopefully he can continue to play that way.”

Regardless, Hamilton will have his minutes increased gradually.

Considering Hamilton’s style is predicated on heavy cutting and running hard off screens away from the ball, he tends to put more pressure on his heels than most. When he returns, Hamilton plans to use a shoe insert to take pressure off his heel.

Thibodeau will use the next few practices as well as Hamilton’s return to action to develop a plan for increasing his minutes over time.

“Today was the first day I really practiced, so it’s going to take time,” Hamilton said. “I know for a fact Thibs doesn’t want to just put me out there and say, ‘OK, play 30 minutes a game.’ He wants to gradually see how I respond with limited minutes at first.”

NOTE: Forward Luol Deng sprained his right ankle Tuesday in the Bulls’ loss to the Rockets and is a game-time decision for Saturday. Deng didn’t participate in practice.



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