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Derrick Rose, Rip Hamilton: Mesh made in heaven

Derrick Rose (above) says Rip Hamilthas flashed surprising speed fast break. | John J. Kim~Sun-Times

Derrick Rose (above) says Rip Hamilton has flashed surprising speed on the fast break. | John J. Kim~Sun-Times

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Updated: January 21, 2012 8:17AM



Ask Derrick Rose and/or Rip Hamilton how long until their skills mesh, and they’ll tell you they already have.

They say their games are so complementary that it’s as if they’ve been playing together for years.

“There’s no adjustment,” Rose said. “I love it.”

It was a lack of backcourt scoring that allowed the Miami Heat to collapse on Rose time and again while eliminating the Bulls from last season’s Eastern Conference finals. Hamilton was acquired to remedy that. While everybody agrees they appear to be a good fit, the two most convinced of that are Rose and Hamilton themselves.

“It’s easy with him,” Rose said. “Get the ball to him, and he just runs down. He’s running off screens the whole time. Other than that, it’s isolation, one or two dribbles here, a quick shot. If he doesn’t have it, he’ll pass it out. His basketball IQ is very high. He helps everybody on the team just talking and letting everybody know where he is on the court.”

Rose and Hamilton insist a few practices are all they need to learn the subtleties of each other’s games and perform together at a high level. To hear them tell it, the Bulls’ eventual starting backcourt will be in perfect synchronicity when the regular season begins even if Hamilton doesn’t play in Tuesday night’s game at the United Center.

Coach Tom Thibodeau said Monday that Hamilton’s participation in the preseason finale will be determined after the shootaround Tuesday.

“The good thing about me is I don’t dominate the ball,” Hamilton said. “I’m not the type of player who wants to dribble the ball 10, 11, 12 times, and the offense has to get stagnant. [Rose] can still do whatever he wants to do. He can control the team. I’ll just help out, catch and shoot, make quick decisions and keep everybody in a nice little rhythm.”

Hamilton offers as evidence how quickly he and Chauncey Billups meshed when they joined the Detroit Pistons before the 2002-03 season. Billups averaged 16.2 points and 3.9 assists that season, which were his lowest totals in both categories during his six-plus years with the team. Hamilton averaged 19.7 points, which he only has surpassed twice since.

Hamilton sees himself in a complementary role that only enhances what the point guard can do.

“Way back then, when me and Chauncey first came together, people were very surprised by how quickly we adjusted,” Hamilton said. “The thing was, Chauncey wanted to control the team and do his thing at point guard, and I made it easier because I didn’t need the ball in my hands that long. I let him do what he does, and I came off screens and helped him out offensively and things like that.

‘‘It’s a similar thing. Derrick is going to do what he does. He does so many special things. I’m just going to run up and down the court and make his job easier.”

Even if Thibodeau seems reluctant to play Hamilton in the last preseason game, he’s not concerned about Rose and Hamilton thriving in the same backcourt.

“Talented players always figure out how to play with each other,’’ Thibodeau said. “That’s never a problem. What I like is Rip is very unselfish and fits [Rose] well from that standpoint.”

Thibodeau wants his team to push the ball more. More easy buckets in transition could boost the team’s .462 shooting percentage, which was tied for 13th-best in the league last season.

Carlos Boozer slowed the Bulls down at times. The forward being injury-free and 20 pounds lighter should help. Despite being 33, Hamilton should help, too. There might not be a faster player with the ball than Rose, but he said Hamilton often beats him up the floor on a fast break.

“When we’re scrimmaging, a lot of times he’s in front of me,” Rose said. “I can throw the ball to him or he can dribble down to the corner and pass it back or do whatever he has to do. If he doesn’t have anything, he’s always smart enough to pass it back to me and let me run the set.”

“It’s going to be fun,” Hamilton said of running the floor with Rose. “It’s going to be exciting. He’s so fast, getting up and down the court and just pushing the ball, so my job will probably be to just get to a spot to keep the floor spaced, so teams won’t be able to lock down on him and attack the paint and things like that. If I run hard, it opens up a lot for everybody else.”

Rose and Hamilton should only improve with time, of course, even if they think it will take no time at all.

“I told everybody, when he’s on the floor, we just have to be able to knock down open shots because people have to go to him and show him a lot of respect,” Rose said. ‘‘If we do that, we should be good.”



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