Bulls 93, Pacers 85: Rip Hamilton dazzles in Bulls (practice) debut

Freeing up space and options for Derrick Rose: Frighteningly delicious. (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)

Rip Hamilton ("Richard 'Rip' Hamilton" as officially announced) looked spectacular tonight, and helped the Bulls starters look a class above Indiana as they continually built leads throughout the game. There were some lulls when the starter sat, but the game was never in doubt, and as a viewing experience it was different to see a Bulls offense so downright pleasurable to watch.

It appears like the brief mourning period for Keith Bogans is long over, as Stacey King explicitly would mention the limitations of last year's starting SG when pointing out Rip's play tonight. And the difference in versatility was pretty stark. He may be a role player at this stage of his career, but Hamilton has the varied skills of someone who used to be much more than that. Whether it was filling the right open space on a broken play, or posting up and hitting a turnaround on a mismatched Darren Collison, or hitting Taj Gibson with a behind-the-back pass on the baseline, Rip is not yet content (nor only able) to be a statue in the corner.

Hamilton missed his last few shots, depressing his FG% down to a mere 50% to get to 13 points. But it wasn't even so much the end results of his shot as how the threat of his presence opened things up for everyone. There was a play of him coming off screens and actually getting double-teamed, where he then immediately fired a pass to a fouled Noah. And what I wasn't expecting was how much his speed and smarts helped in transition. He not only would aggressively move the ball up the court when given the opportunity, but his sprints to the rim would do wonders in collapsing the defense. On one play in particular, it was that extra motion alone that was enough to give Luol Deng a wide-open three-pointer.

Hamilton led the Bulls with a +18 in his nearly 30 minutes, and the Bulls offense was humming on a night where Derrick Rose only attempted 9 shots. Yes, it's preseason (and it's cliche to even point that out, right?), and Rip's one single practice game with the Bulls. But it's all we have to go on, and it went very well.

Other observations:

  • With Ronnie Brewer pushed back to the bench, the Bench Mob was reformed. They didn't do as well as the starters, and while Brewer had a couple jumpers it's still a unit where oftentimes a green-lit CJ Watson is the only real play.
  • Tyler Hansbrough once again gave the Bulls frontcourt fits, going off for 24 and 13 and getting several Bulls in foul trouble. Taj Gibson fouled out in only 16 minutes. Offensively though, he and Carlos Boozer (24 pts) were able to offset Hansbrough's contribution, though not his annoyingness.
  • After being the sorta-star of the first preseason game, Jimmy Butler only played one minute tonight. The rotation is clearly set in terms of members, and he's not making it. What isn't set is the minutes distribution, and Kyle Korver didn't do anything to dispel the thought (that I had, anyway) that he's going to be the minutes casualty of Rip's acquisition. When he's not hitting shots (0-3 tonight) he's downright unplayable, and was clearly already Thibs (relatively) least favorite player.
  • Joakim Noah had 5 blocks, 2 of which were spectacular (one against Hansbrough, another on Hibbert) in the way he was able to adjust.
  • Comcast threw in a new wrinkle this year, a sideline report from CSNChicago's Aggrey Sam. That was kinda neat to see.
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