A day after his new teammates praised his impending arrival, Thursday was Rip Hamilton's first practice as a Bull and chance to meet the media (and, ya know, speak to us fans indirectly).
Sporting a freshly-shaved head, Rip said all the right things (even better version here). He was probably lying about some of it, namely his rift with John Kuester last season, but that's all part of his professionalism. Kidding a bit, there, but I am legitimately acknowledging the intangibles-aspect of what Rip can bring that was pointed out throughout the day's coverage: he's a smart player, a tough player, can work the refs, and has experience in not only the playoffs but the Eastern Conference kind.
I was a bit intrigued by a quote that came out during the day suggesting that '25 minutes a game' was the reason for his down season in Detroit, as if it was an implication that minutes was the sole cause of everything that went wrong for him and his team last year. But Sam Smith's context (though the reporter's own, so who knows) makes it seem as he was just referring to the dip in scoring average. However it was meant, the actions of Rip last year when it came to his benching is what is important, and so John Hollinger's suggestion that the Bulls bring him off the bench seems like an unnecessary complication. I begrudgingly get the strategy to stagger your offensive weapons (though having Rip not play with Rose seems like it diminishes both), but despite all that was said today, Rip seems like a guy who is confident in his status in the league, and while we can sit back and remark it's who finishes that counts, coming out with the starters to a poorly-done announcement by Tommy Edwards is important to players, so why even possibly breed discontent if it's all fairly unnecessary?
But that's a minor reason compared to just not making sense to me from a basketball standpoint, as while Rip has a history, it was a rebellion borne of lack of respect and against seeming incompetence. That doesn't appear to be a possible situation in the Bulls case with Tom Thibodeau, and they have such a lack of problems to where even if Rip was not what the locker room was used to, they could handle it. But it will indeed be a different dynamic: at 33, Hamilton is three years older than any Bulls rotation player last year, and that was the deferential-to-a-fault Keith Bogans.
[of even more minor concern, you'd hope, is the annoying headband rule rearing its head (pun-gun!) again, with Hamilton saying he needs it and Gar Forman looking around hoping Paxson happened to overhear the question and jump in. I don't even mind as much the rule still being around as them not even knowing themselves if it is or not.]
And that age of Hamiton is what Hollinger mentioned later as cause for concern, though he hypothesized that Rip likely won't be as bad as the Hollinger-numbers project (a 13.2 PER), as last year's drop in long 2-pt % could be alleviated from the relative lack of defensive attention he'll encounter as a Bull.
Zach Lowe at SI went deeper today in what Rip can do on the floor offensively (defensively the consensus all around is: he's adequate if slipping) in a role that the Bulls could never really find a complete player to take over last season:
So the Bulls have taken a flier on someone who might be able to combine Korver's catch-and-shoot skills with respectable defense, solid passing skills, an off-the-dribble game he can use in a pinch and (against the right opponents) an ability to back up the poor, overworked Luol Deng at small forward.
It is a flier, though. Hamilton shot only 39 percent last season coming off screens, according to Synergy Sports. He was much better as a spot-up shooter, something that might reflect the aging process a bit. And the Bulls actually use the catch-and-shoot game a ton already, mostly because Korver and Deng are both comfortable jetting around picks.
A [different] option exists, but it’s outside of Korver’s skill set: Catch the ball, dribble into the paint and either launch a floater or dish to an open man somewhere else...It’s possible that Hamilton’s off-the-bounce game, if used selectively, could create openings that don’t currently exist in Chicago’s offense.
This is a much better way (f'real, read the whole thing) of what I said last week: while not the proficient and self-reliant shot-creator that may have been more necessary (and I'd quibble with Lowe and say overworking Rose is even more concerning than it is for Deng), Rip is so much more versatile than what the Bulls had on the wings last year that the difference will be apparent.
But ultimately, that's the 'idea' of Rip Hamilton, we've yet to see if the new situation will indeed be all it takes to stave off his decline. He certainly sounds like that'll be the case, which is a good first step.
Rip Hamilton worth a shot, but Bulls shouldn’t expect too much of an impact - Zach Lowe, SI.com
Baron, Rip moves: Thumps up/down? - John Hollinger, ESPN.com (insider)
Hamilton talking the talk - KC Johnson, Chicago Tribune
Hamilton's 'look' vital to playing his game - Melissa Isaacson, ESPNChicago
Hamiton: No issues with ex-Pistons coach - Melissa Isaacson, ESPNChicago
Rip Hamilton is ready to go… far - Sam Smith, Bulls.com
Bulls welcome new arrival Hamilton with open arms - Aggrey Sam, CSNChicago.com