December 3, 2012
Life without Derrick Rose continues for the Chicago Bulls.
Now they’ll also be living without Rip Hamilton for the foreseeable future.
Hamilton injured his left foot in Saturday night’s 93-88 win over the Philadelphia 76ers. And although Rip returned to knock down some clutch free throws, it was fairly obvious something was wrong.
After the game, Hamilton said: “I was able to put a little weight on it, so I could go back in the game. It wasn’t 100 percent or anything like that, but I felt I could help the team. When I jumped up, as soon as I came up I felt something pop in the bottom of my foot. Yeah [it scared me. The simple fact no one was around. They always say the worst injuries are when nobody is around and you don’t fall down. When it happened it scared me. I felt I did not want to put pressure on it, but it was not a whole lot of pain. [Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau] did not want to put me back at first. But I’m like, ‘I’m good, I’m good.’ I won’t know what it is until I get an MRI. We’ll see (Sunday).”
That MRI revealed that Hamilton has a torn plantar fascia.
In response, the Bulls issued the following statement: “Chicago Bulls guard Richard Hamilton had an MRI today that revealed he has a torn Plantar Fascia in his left foot. He will return to play as his symptoms permit.”
The words “day-to-day” and “out indefinitely” apply.
Sam Smith of Bulls.com suggested Rip could be back in a week or two, and K.C. Johnson of the Chicago Tribune noted that James Johnson missed only one game with a similar injury when he was with the team back in 2010.
Of course, Johnson was in his early 20s and had just entered the league. Hamilton is 34 and has logged 28,878 minutes over 753 games in his 14 NBA seasons.
It’s hard to know how this will play out. As Mark Potash of the Chicago Sun-Times writes: “The team’s statement indicates that Hamilton’s status is day-to-day. But the torn plantar fascia is one of those injuries with a variance of recovery schedules. Some players return in a week. Others take months. Toronto Raptors shooting guard Alan Anderson is out three to six weeks with a torn plantar fascia.”
So Rip is out. He could be back soon. He could be gone for a while. Only time will tell.
Hamilton has been up and down this season. He’s scoring 13.9 points per game. His field goal percentage (45.5) and three-point percentage (37.5) are above his career averages of 45.0 and 34.8, respectively, and he’s knocking down a career-best 93 percent of his free throws. His Per 36 Minutes numbers are on par with his career averages. Ditto for his Effective Field Goal and True Shooting percentages.
However, his Player Efficiency Rating of 13.9 is below the league average and his Win Shares Per 48 Minutes of 0.085 is near a career-worst. At times, Thibodeau hasn’t trusted him to play in the fourth quarter.
Still, losing Hamilton for however long could be a significant blow to a team that was already struggling to deal with the loss of key bench players from previous seasons.
The general consensus is that shooting guard duties will fall to Marco Belinelli and Jimmy Butler during Hamilton’s absence. That’s the most likely scenario, although Thibs could also use Kirk Hinrich more at the two spot while letting Nate Robinson and rookie Marquis Teague share point guard duties.
Butler is having a fine season. He currently leads the Bulls in Effective Field Goal Percentage, True Shooting Percentage and Win Shares Per 48 minutes (.211). He’s also third on the team in PER (16.8) and has played very solid defense. That said, he occasionally looks lost on offense and seems reluctant to shoot.
As for Belinelli, he’s shooting a career-low 36.8 percent from the field, although his three-point percentage (40.7) and free throw percentage (89.5) are strong. He looks more lost on defense than Butler does on offense — which bodes very poorly for a player in Thibodeau’s system — and his PER of 9.7 is way below “replacement player” levels.
There are no easy answers. Like I said, Thibs could try using Hinrich at shooting guard, but he’s having his worst-ever season and has lost a half step (or more) defensively. And Robinson is a nice change-of-pace, spark-plug-off-the-bench type of player, but he’s woefully undersized even for a point guard and a tendency to either play great or out of control.
The Bulls are heading into a rough stretch of four games in five nights, starting with Tuesday night’s home game against the division rival Indiana Pacers. After that, they head to Cleveland and Detroit before returning home to play the New York Knicks on Saturday.
Once again, the Bulls are going to have to adjust on the fly.
October 3, 2012
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.
December 16, 2011
Rip has spoken:
“I’m coming to do whatever the coach and the organization want me to do. If they want me to come in and play 20 minutes, I’m going to do that. If they want me to play 30 I’ll do that.
“Whatever the team needs, whatever the team needs, man, because the biggest thing I want is to win a world championship. I won it once, had an opportunity to win it again and didn’t. Now it’s the opportunity to feel good that you have a chance again. I’m excited.”
My take: This is the attitude Hamilton has to have for things to work out. If he’s being sincere, it’s a good sign and shows that the ugliness of last season — specifically his feud with the Pistons coaching staff — is behind him. It helps that, unlike the last few seasons in Detroit, Rip has a chance to be on a winning team again.
“I love the game of basketball. I think I can help this team in so many different ways, and I’m excited about it. 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 came out and showed up and everybody went through the motions. When the clock turned 10, 11 o’clock, they were ready to go. I liked it. I liked it a lot.”
My take: Welcome to Chicago, Rip. That attitude is what makes this team great. Everybody on this team, players one through 12, care. They really do. It’s rare. And special. If anything can bring the best out of Hamilton, it’s that attitude.
“I knew, my goodness, since I was 24, 25 and coach Larry Brown coached me, he really stressed defense. That’s how we won a world championship in Detroit. He really didn’t care about the offense. We knew we could shut teams down and in certain games your shot wasn’t going to fall and things like that, but you can’t let a team beat you by hustle and defense.”
You can’t see it, but I’m nodding vigorously.
The Bulls were already a great defensive team that, nine times out of 10, wins the hustle battle. If Rip can help improve the offense, this team will be scary good.