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Bulls fall to 76ers; Thibodeau says Hamilton won’t play till healthy

Bulls star Derrick Rose had 18 points six assists loss Wednesday 76ers Philadelphia. | Getty Images

Bulls star Derrick Rose had 18 points and six assists in a loss Wednesday to the 76ers in Philadelphia. | Getty Images

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The facts: 7, TNT, 1000-AM.

Updated: March 25, 2012 5:49PM

PHILADELPHIA — If only Richard Hamilton had played Wednesday, the Bulls might have lost by only six points instead of 16. They were that bad in a lackluster 98-82 loss to the Philadelphia 76ers at Wells Fargo Center.

Hamilton, 33, only can do so much. But the 6-7 shooting guard does make a difference — potentially a big difference come playoff time — and Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau tacitly acknowledged as much when he ostensibly changed Hamilton’s status from ‘‘day-to-day’’ to ‘‘out indefinitely.’’

Tired of seeing Hamilton play one night, then sit the next with
another injury, Thibodeau said Hamilton won’t play until he can play more than one, two or even five or six games in a row.

After missing 10 of 11 games at the start of January, Hamilton played in five consecutive games before missing a game Friday against the Milwaukee Bucks. He played Sunday against the Miami Heat but suffered a thigh injury that forced him to miss games against the Washington Wizards and the 76ers.

‘‘I’m concerned with this thing become recurring,’’ Thibodeau said. ‘‘I want to make sure this time that he’s completely healthy. [With] a guy like that, you have to be careful, so that’s what we’re going to do.’’

At full strength, Hamilton adds dimensions to the Bulls on offense and defense that open up all sorts of possibilities. He runs the floor and finishes the break. He finds the open man. He makes more than two shots in a row. And then there are the intangibles. Thibodeau literally doesn’t know just what he has.

‘‘He’s brought the catch-and-shoot game, which gives you a different dimension,’’ Thibodeau said. ‘‘But .  .  . the hard thing to judge right now is he’s missed so much time that you’re not sure what he’s going to bring. We need to get him healthy for us to know what he’s
really going to bring to the team.’’

But 76ers coach Doug Collins, who knows the Bulls and knows Hamilton — he coached him with the Wizards in 2001-02 — knows exactly what Hamilton does for a Bulls team that was only a step
behind the Heat last season.

‘‘I think he fits them beautifully,’’ Collins said. ‘‘The guy is perpetual motion. You take a lot of pressure off Derrick Rose by not forcing him to make every play coming down the floor. So rather than him having to create everything all the time, you can run Rip off all these screens, and he’s the master .  .  . at getting in that pocket. And he’s big enough to make those passes to those big guys around the basket.

‘‘Plus, when healthy, Rip is a very good defender. He’s fast. He’s got good size. He’s a championship player, so he loves big games. All those things he adds to this team.’’

There’s no telling when Hamilton will return. It didn’t sound as though he would be ready any time soon when he discussed the injury before the game.

‘‘It’s the same,’’ said Hamilton, who is averaging 14.2 points. ‘‘It’s tough right now.’’

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