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Rip Hamilton looms over Bulls’ media day

Bulls general manager Gar Forman wouldn’t talk specifically about Rip Hamiltbut players said they would welcome him. | Michael Dwyer~AP

Bulls general manager Gar Forman wouldn’t talk specifically about Rip Hamilton, but the players said they would welcome him. | Michael Dwyer~AP

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Updated: January 13, 2012 8:19AM

Kyle Korver was denied access to the players’ parking lot at the Berto Center and later joked about how this might have been the organization’s way of telling him another shooting guard had been signed. When Derrick Rose was asked about soon-to-be free-agent guard Rip Hamilton, he replied: “I don’t even know. Did we get him?”

The Bulls hosted media day at their practice facility Sunday, and while the attention is usually focused on the players, coaches and front-office staff in attendance, there were two distinct elephants in the room. The first was Hamilton, who still is reportedly Chicago-bound once his contract is officially bought out by the Detroit Pistons.

The other was none other than the Miami Heat, which eliminated the Bulls from the conference finals last season and remains the team to beat in the East.

“Our goal is to win a title,” Rose said. “We have a decent shot with the guys we’ve got coming back. We don’t know what else is going on, but I know the front office is doing a great job getting whoever from wherever. I have a lot of belief in my teammates, and I know they have a lot of confidence in me and faith in me as a player. That’s all we need.”

General manager Gar Forman said his intention all along has been to put the same nucleus on the floor as last season. He likes the chemistry players developed and believes this group has earned the right to grow and mature. But that doesn’t mean he’s not looking to add a piece or two to a roster that stands at 11.

“We’re still exploring ways we can improve this basketball team moving forward,” he said. “We still have some roster spots and a little bit of flexibility, and we’re exploring options as far as making additions to this team, and hopefully something will happen with regard to that in the next few days.”

Forman refused to talk specifically about Hamilton because he is still technically a member of the Pistons until he clears waivers. He would also need to pass a physical before coming to Chicago.

“We’ve been in contact with a number of players, and we’ve really tried to explore a number of different options to improve this basketball team,” Forman said. “If we identify the right player or players that we feel give us a chance to get better, we’ll certainly make a move. That said, our feeling has always been we’re not going to make a move just to make a move. If we don’t feel it’s a plus for this team, we’ll bring this team back as is and feel really good about our group of guys and give them a chance to continue to grow.”

Forman wouldn’t discuss Hamilton, but several players said they would welcome the veteran who was a key piece of the Pistons’ 2004 title team. These Bulls are so focused on winning that even Korver and Ronnie Brewer, whose minutes could be dramatically affected by Hamilton’s arrival, are all for the signing if it helps the Bulls leapfrog the Heat.

“I’ve known Rip since I was 14 years old,” forward Luol Deng said. “Rip played college basketball with my brother. I used to go up to UConn to work out with those guys. The one thing I could say about Rip is all his teammates like him. If Rip was to come here, he would be a great guy in the locker room, a great teammate. I know that from the guys in Detroit. They love playing with him.

“He’s a guy that won a championship. He’s been there. He knows what it takes. If he joins us, I’m sure he’ll make us better.”

Forman said the Heat’s signing of swingman Shane Battier doesn’t increase his urgency to sign a player to keep pace. While the Bulls would certainly be interested in center Dwight Howard now that he has told the Orlando Magic he wants to be traded, Forman would not talk specifically about that possibility, either.

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