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Derrick Rose, Rip Hamilton coming back at opportune time for Bulls

John Lucas III (15) figures log few minutes when Derrick Rose returns Bulls’ lineup.  |  Tom Cruze~Sun-Times

John Lucas III (15) figures to log few minutes when Derrick Rose returns to the Bulls’ lineup. | Tom Cruze~Sun-Times

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Celtics at Bulls

The facts: 8:30, TNT, 1000-AM

Updated: May 6, 2012 8:24AM

It’s looking more like Derrick Rose and Rip Hamilton to the ­rescue and not just because the Bulls are coming off back-to-back losses for the first time in more than a year.

Rose and Hamilton have missed a combined 58 games. Factor in ­injuries to C.J. Watson and John Lucas III, and that number swells to 76 games. Considering the potential cumulative effect of all those minutes lost, is it any wonder that Kyle Korver, Watson, Lucas and Ronnie Brewer have seemingly hit a wall of late?

“Guys have done a great job stepping in and doing what they’ve been doing — Ronnie, Kyle, C.J., John,’’ Hamilton said. “Those guys have been excellent the entire ­season. When we come back, when everybody can get their rhythm and in their comfort zone of what they’re used to doing, we’ll be great.”

Rose did everything required of him in practice on Wednesday at the Berto Center and could ­return from a groin injury when the Bulls host the Celtics on Thursday night. It’s more likely, however, that his comeback will be against the Knicks in New York on Sunday or when the teams meet again at the United Center on April 10.

While Rose said he wasn’t able to run at top speed, coach Tom Thibodeau and Hamilton were impressed after his participation in a limited-contact workout.

“On Derrick’s bad days, he’s still a 10,” Hamilton said when asked to rate Rose’s explosiveness. “He possesses all the attributes. When he’s 100 percent, he’s way over 10. Him not full speed is still faster than 98 percent of the league.”

Rose admits he needs to get back in shape after missing 11 games with what general manager Gar Forman has described as a “major” groin injury.

“I really don’t know,” Rose said when asked if he would recover fully or be at less than 100 percent for the rest of the season. “This is my first time ever having this injury. Usually people, after they have it, they don’t have it anymore, but my biggest thing is coming back too quick and reinjuring it.”

The team’s backup guards are playing more than they did last season. That’s especially true of Watson, Brewer and Lucas, which might be contributing to their poor shooting of late. Over the last six games, that trio and Korver have combined to shoot 33 percent.

“Offensively, we haven’t been scoring the way we would like,” Thibodeau said. “It’s probably a compilation of things. We’re ­playing low-energy. We have to try to get some easier baskets. We’ve shot the three fairly well. That’s been a plus. Overall, we haven’t shot very well. We’re in a little bit of a lull. Hopefully, the two days off will be good for us.”

Hamilton also participated in the team’s 90-minute practice after making his return from a prolonged absence with a shoulder injury in a loss on Monday night to the Rockets. The veteran said he’s looking forward to spending some quality time with Rose on the court. Both players have endured injury-plagued seasons.

That means Watson and others could soon be in for a well-deserved respite. Thibodeau admitted that Watson has been playing hurt. The Bulls schedule, which was especially brutal early in the season, turns favorable down the stretch, which should give Thibodeau time to rest those who need it most.

“[Rose] does so many great things on the floor that can get me so many wide-open baskets,” Hamilton said. “Pretty much my whole career my team looked at me to lead the team in scoring every game. Now I’m in a situation where I can get to spots. Derrick is going to create. Derrick is going to make plays to make my job a lot easier.”

The Bulls’ postseason run could come down to setbacks. If Rose and Hamilton reinjure themselves, their hopes of defeating the Miami Heat and advancing to the NBA Finals could be dashed. The same goes for Luol Deng and the torn ligament in his wrist.

The intensity of playoff basketball could be a factor. All three ­injuries will be well known to opponents from here on out.

“I’ve been in playoff battles where I was hurt and felt as if somebody was trying to go at it, but that was the game,” Hamilton said. “You have to go out there and ­tighten up and not think about injuries, but only think about one thing, and that’s basketball and win the game. That’s something you get over real quick.”

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