Due to last season’s lockout-shortened schedule, the Bulls played 66 regular season games.
But Rip Hamilton was available for only 28 of them.
That was a really big deal.
It has been somewhat forgotten because of the many other concerns in the Bulls universe…
…Derrick Rose’s surgically-repaired left knee, Luol Deng’s not-surgically-repaired left wrist, Joakim Noah’s troublesome left ankle, Tom Thibodeau’s thankfully-no-longer-up-in-the-air contract situation, the dismantling of the Bench Mob (goodbye C.J. Watson, John Lucas, Kyle Korver, Omer Asik and Ronnie Brewer), the arrival of several new players (hello Kirk Hinrich, Marco Belinelli, Marquis Teague, Nate Robinson, Nazr Mohammed and Vladimir Radmanovic)…
…but Hamilton was supposed to be The Final Piece in Chicago’s championship puzzle.
Now we’ll never know whether that team could have beaten the Sixers, then the Celtics, then the Heat, then the Thunder (some people forget that the Bulls would have had to do more than just unseat Miami). Almost half the team has been flipped and Rose remains out and probably won’t be fully back until next season. And Rip may not be around by then.
But he’s here now and hoping for a bit of redemption.
Bryan Crawford of NBC Chicago writes:
To help him prepare for a full 82-game season, the 34-year-old hired a physical therapist to not only aid in his body’s healing process, but to give him a leg-up on the younger and quicker guards at his position.
Said Hamilton: ”Last season was very tough mentally. Not being able to play — I lost my grandma last year, too — and not having the game to help put your mind somewhere else, it was difficult for me.
“I used a [physical] therapist to help me with my hips and my legs and to just try and stay limber. I did a lot of sand workouts and stuff like that, so I kind of remixed my regimen. I still run and do all of that stuff, but I’m just trying to get an advantage and that’s the biggest thing for me.”
It’s good to know that Rip was mixing it up this summer and trying to make meaningful physical improvements. I just wonder whether they will matter.
Rip will turn 35 in February (on Valentine’s day actually). His Per 36 Minute numbers have remained solid, but his PER has been on a steady decline since he last made the All-Star team in 2008:
What’s more, his True Shooting Percentage has been below his career average in each of the last three seasons, and his Free Throw Attempts per game dropped to a a career-low 1.9 last season.
Speaking of which, John Hollinger’s player profiles tell a grim story for Hamilton:
Hamilton played only 28 games, so take the shooting numbers with a grain of salt, but of more lasting concern was the demise of his free throw attempts. Without those, he’s a really ordinary player because more than half his shots are long 2s — in fact, he took a higher proportion of his shots from that distance than any other player in the league. In the past he’s been able to draw a fair number of fouls with shot fakes and moves off the ball, but last season only three shooting guards had a worse rate of free throw attempts per field goal attempt; Hamilton had only 37 free throw attempts all season.
The result of that was a 50.0 TS%, which ranked in the bottom 10 among shooting guards and wasn’t anywhere near good enough for a primary offensive option. It didn’t help that his 39.8 percent mark on long 2s wasn’t up to his usual caliber, but that’s a secondary story if he can’t earn any free throws.
In all fairness, over the past three seasons, Rip has been either injured or mired in a bad situation in Detroit. But at some point, all these “bad circumstances” might really mean “decline.” And if that’s the case, no amount of sand workouts will help him.