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Bulls being careful with Rip Hamilton

Coach Tom Thibodeau says he might play his starters more preseasfinale ­Tuesday night against IndianPacers United Center. | Michael Conroy~AP

Coach Tom Thibodeau says he might play his starters more in the preseason finale ­Tuesday night against the Indiana Pacers at the United Center. | Michael Conroy~AP

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Updated: January 21, 2012 8:17AM

Coach Tom Thibodeau has yet to decide whether guard Rip Hamilton will make his United Center debut Tuesday night in the exhibition finale against the Indiana Pacers or in the home opener on New Year’s Day against the Memphis Grizzlies.

“We’ll see,” Thibodeau said. “I just want to make sure he’s ready to go. He’s moving along well. He’s in pretty good shape. I just want to make sure.”

Hamilton has participated in five practices since being signed to a two-year deal with a club option last week.

“His experience is going to pay off,” forward Luol Deng said. “The great thing is every practice he’s early, he’s been practicing really hard and talking to the young guys. You can just tell he’s not here just to join us. He’s here because he knows he can help us. It’s exciting to see that.”

Whether or not he plays Tuesday, Hamilton already has earned the respect of his teammates.

“He’s going to be great for us,” center Joakim Noah said. “He’s somebody who can really score. He’s played in a lot of big ballgames. He’s a warrior.”


Thibodeau said he might play his starters more in the preseason finale. He also wants to see fewer turnovers, better concentration to start the game and improved defensive rebounding.

“Fundamentally, we have to be better,” he said. “We had a lot of one-handed passes, one-handed catches. Some of the rebounding we were doing was one-handed, and that tends to happen when you’re fatigued. We’ve got to get past that.”

Home sweet home

The Bulls haven’t played at the United Center since being eliminated by the Miami Heat in Game 5 of the Eastern Conference finals last season.

“This is the best part of Chicago for me, being able to play in this building,” Noah said after Monday’s practice at the UC. “It’s exciting every time. You can be tired as hell — there are going to be a lot of games in a row — but for some reason, you’re numb to all that when you play in this building.”

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