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Rip Hamilton set to sign with Bulls

Richard Hamilton’s pedigree is unquestioned includes nine years an NBA championship with Pistons. | M. Spencer Green~AP

Richard Hamilton’s pedigree is unquestioned and includes nine years and an NBA championship with the Pistons. | M. Spencer Green~AP

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Updated: December 14, 2011 5:19PM

Rip Hamilton will sign a free-agent contract with the Bulls later today, a source close to Hamilton confirmed Wednesday afternoon.

Hamilton’s agent, Leon Rose, said Wednesday night his client’s signing was “imminent.” Although Rose refused to comment, an NBA source said the deal was for three years and $15 million and not the two-year, $10 million deal previously reported.

The source, who asked not to be identified, said once Hamilton had been bought out by the Pistons and cleared waivers, he had narrowed his choices to three teams where he felt he would be the best fit.

His top choice, however, was to play with Derrick Rose and the Bulls.

“He’s beyond excited,” the source said.

After clearing waivers Wednesday morning, Hamilton was en route to Chicago in the afternoon and could join the team as soon as Thursday morning’s practice. The makes its exhibition debut at the Indiana Pacers on Friday. While it’s possible Hamilton could make his Bulls debut at Conseco Fieldhouse, it’s more likely he will make his first appearance at the United Center when the Pacers come to down on Dec. 20.

Hamilton fills a obvious need for the Bulls, who have been searching for a shooting guard that can prevent opposing defenses from collapsing on Derrick Rose like the Miami Heat in eliminating the Bulls from the Eastern Conference Finals last season. A proven scorer who can shoot from the outside and create off the dribble, Hamilton’s game should compliment Rose’s.

“The ability to shoot and the ability to score is obviously important because the more space we can create for Derrick the more avenues he’s got to create off the dribble and create for others,” Bulls general manager Gar Forman said.

The veteran was a hero of the Pistons 2004 NBA title run but has feuded with the past two Piston coaches. Bulls forward Luol Deng had known Hamilton since he was in high school and is convinced he will not only be a good player but a good teammate. Derrick Rose concurs, as does Carlos Boozer, who considers Hamilton a close friend.

“Rip would definitely fit in if that’s the direction we’re going,” Boozer said. “I’ve admired his game a great deal. He’s a great dude, a very good friend of mine. He would fit into this group.”

A career 17.7 scorer, Hamilton averaged 14.1 points last season, which was his lowest total since his rookie year with the Wizards. The scoring slump was mostly the result of reduced minutes, however, as Hamilton scored at virtually the same rate as he has during his career.

If it’s a winner the Bulls were looking for, Hamilton qualifies. Not only was he a key cog on an NBA championship team that relied on chemistry during its 2004 title run, but he was also named the Final Four MVP after leading Connecticut to a national championship in 1999,

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

At 6-foot-7, he would give the Bulls some length in the backcourt. While he may be an average defender at this point of his career, Hamilton does have experience defending Dwayne Wade in both the regular season and the playoffs.

“I’ve known Rip since I was 14 years old,” Deng said. “Rip played college basketball with my brother. I used to go up to UConn to workout 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 has been impressed by the character and chemistry the Bulls have developed and has no-doubt done extensive background check on Hamilton to make sure he will mesh with other players both on the court and in the locker room.

“It comes down to the professionalism of the person coming into the group,” Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau said when asked how quickly a new player could be asked to play a prominant role. “Are they ready for that challenge? Are they going to study? Are they going to be in shape? There are different things you can do --- keep them late, watch film with them. The challenge is to get them up to speed quickly because the games are going to keep coming.”

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