FILE - In this March 16, 2011, file photo, Detroit Pistons' Richard Hamilton reacts to the action in the second half of an NBA basketball game against the Toronto Raptors in Auburn Hills, Mich. A person familiar with the situation told The Associated Press on condition of anonymity, Friday, Dec. 9, 2011, that the team has decided to part ways with Hamilton, and that terms of a buyout are still being negotiated. Hamilton spent the last nine seasons with the Pistons, leading them to the 2004 NBA title but had a falling out last season with former coach John Kuester and was benched for most of a seven-week stretch. (AP Photo/Duane Burleson, File)
Updated: January 17, 2012 8:27AM
Rip Hamilton should keep teams from collapsing on Derrick Rose the way the Miami Heat did in the Eastern Conference finals. He’s constantly moving without the ball and willing to hit the open man, which creates more problems for opposing defenses. He also understands the role defense plays in winning NBA championships.
Equally important is the playoff experience he brings to Chicago. Hamilton played in six consecutive Eastern Conference finals and has twice done what the Bulls haven’t since Michael Jordan left — reach the NBA Finals.
His 120 playoff games are twice as many as the Bulls’ second-most seasoned playoff performer — Carlos Boozer.
“When you get into the playoffs, you know what I like to do, and I know what you like to do,” Hamilton said when asked if he could lift the Bulls past the Boston Celtics and Heat. “It’s a dogfight. Now we’re going to see who is going to out-will each other. I’ve been there. I love it. I live for it. I’m excited to get back there.”
The 6-7 Hamilton, 33, practiced with the Bulls for the first time Thursday since signing a three-year, $15 million contract Wednesday. While coach Tom Thibodeau was impressed with how fit Hamilton appeared during a three-hour-plus workout, Hamilton admitted it will take time to adjust to Thibodeau’s schemes and his new teammates.
The Bulls can afford to be patient because Rose and the other players most responsible for last season’s regular-season-best 62-20 record all have returned.
“He fits in with our team because of the fact that he’s unselfish and he requires you to put two on the ball,” Thibodeau said. “Most teams are going to trap him on the catch-and-shoot plays, and he’ll hit the open man. It gives us something else we can go to. I like his size at the position. That can help us, and his experience goes a long way.”
Hamilton said he’ll play whatever role Thibodeau thinks is best for the opportunity to play with Rose and compete for his second NBA title.
“I’m excited, very, very excited,” Hamilton said. “There are not too many opportunities to play with the MVP of the league. The kid is very special. The kid can do any and everything. He showed that last year. I just want to help. I just want to be there when he needs me and be able to ride with him.”
Thibodeau said he wouldn’t make a decision on whether Hamilton will play in the exhibition opener Friday night against the Indiana Pacers in Indianapolis until after Friday’s shootaround at Conseco Fieldhouse. Whether Hamilton begins the season as a starter or by coming off the bench, there’s little doubt the 12-year veteran will play a major role for the Bulls.
“I can help this team in so many different ways,” Hamilton said. “They’ve got a great group of guys. Today, in the first day of practice, they really showed me they want to be out here. It wasn’t a thing where we all showed up and everybody went through the motions. When the clock turned [to practice time], they were ready to go. I liked it. I liked it a lot.”
Hamilton might be unsure of himself now, but the hope is he can show the Bulls the way once the playoffs arrive.
“The guy has been in 120 playoff games, he’s averaged 20 points in the playoffs, which is significant, but, more important, he plays to win,” Thibodeau said. “That’s what we want him to do here.”