The Bulls are now another man down

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 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.

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