What they're saying about the Bulls' final preseason game: Rip, pace, and that point guard

CHICAGO, IL - DECEMBER 20: Richard Hamilton #32 of the Chicago Bulls drives against the Indiana Pacers at the United Center on December 20, 2011 in Chicago, Illinois. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)

The Bulls' mini-preseason ended Tuesday, beating the Pacers 93-85 at the United Center.

And there's no question what dominated the nuggets of what can be taken away from the game: Richard Hamilton makes the Bulls better -- a LOT better. His 13 points on 6-for-12 shooting, six assists, and three rebounds didn't just fit within the system; he played a large role in a wealth of possessions on both ends of the court in almost 30 minutes of PT in his Bulls debut.

Carlos Boozer said after the game that Rip "fit like a glove".

Rip added: "I told Coach before shootaround today, I want to just be thrown in the fire, I want to get all the rust out. It was fun to be out there with the guys."

"On this team there are no ball hogs," Hamilton said. "There are guys trying to make plays for each other, guys always helping each other out. That makes the game so much easier.

"Regular season, you'll get plays off individual talent. But once the playoffs start, you really need your teammates to get through."

My personal impression was with Rip's playmaking abilities. His display of court vision showed a high I.Q. of a man pretty excited to play with talent for the first time in years, as Sam Smith noted:

Hamilton showed a flashy ability to pass the ball with a highlight behind the back pass along the baseline to Gibson for a dunk after the Pacers briefly cut it under 10 early in the fourth. I loved another in the first half when Hamilton fired to Noah who hit Boozer for the score with uncanny all around ball movement. Hamilton helped close the half with the Bulls up 50-42 with a fast break pass back to Rose, who converted on a reverse.

Rip's impression is everywhere, but what stood out most was the pace. Last season, the Bulls' best offense wasn't Derrick Rose, but their defense -- outlet passing on defensive rebounds after forcing misses and running the floor for easy buckets on steals. We saw a ton of that last night, as Smith added:

The Bulls look like they are finally intent on being a fast breaking team. It's what they should have been more of last season, though it's difficult to argue with 62 wins. But no point guard runs like Rose and no center runs like Joakim Noah. And few shooting guards run like Hamilton. Luol Deng runs. Run Lu, run. But last season first Boozer was out, then Noah, and Rose had to do so much. He probably rested in the half court game some and tended to take the ball in the backcourt. This time Rose was getting the ball more near midcourt and being able to attack faster. The Bulls were 18-4 over Indiana on fast break points, and there were some truly breathtaking fast breaks with Rose running with Hamilton.

It's safe to say that Hamilton is indeed a "fine fit for the Bulls", as Chris Silva noted -- not just in a meaningless exhibition game, but going forward as he fits into adds to the system:

The first is that Hamilton's constant man-on-the-run style of play will open things up for his teammates. Case in point are his six assists, several of which came from Hamilton running hard off a screen or a pin-down, catching a pass and finding an open teammate in the frontcourt.


That last quote right there tells you all you need to know about Hamilton's mentality. He's a veteran player who not only knows how to play a role but also understands what he can do to make his teammates better. And it doesn't take an entire training camp and preseason to acquire that kind of knowledge.

The second thing Hamilton brings to the Bulls: so long as Chicago remains a defensive force that can consistently create turnovers, Rose will now have someone who can keep up with him in the transition game. This is something Hamilton did not do much of during his time with the Pistons, who thrived in the half court with the patient Chauncey Billups.

The Bulls ranked 19th in fast-break points last season at 13.4 a game, and who knows how many more quick, easy baskets they can generate this year with Hamilton zipping down a wing. They scored 18 fast-break points on Tuesday.

And then there was Rose. He only scored two points in the first half, but the Bulls scored 50 and he had six assists -- nine for the game. Rip's exceptional debut and the pace of the game were undeniable, but Rose's playmaking was the foundation of it all. He pushed the ball up the floor, stayed centered as his teammates found space on his sides, and used had about as good timing as a point guard can have. The fast breaks were efficient, but more remarkable was his pick n' roll game -- maybe the best of what we've seen from Rose.

The Bulls picked up one of the best pick n' roll bigs in the game in Boozer last offseason, but the team was unable to consistently exploit the two-man game with the great rebounding and good enough spot shooting for it to become unstoppable. There were signs of that to come this season with Rose having so many minutes with stronger tertiary scoring options and much better timed his passes to the roll man -- adapting quicker to double teams.

"That's what the game was dictating," Tom Thibodeau said of Rose's distribution after the game. "Derrick can beat you a lot of different ways. He can beat you with scoring, passing, active with his defense, pushing the ball up the floor, getting easy baskets. So, I thought he was real patient. He got into the post one time, so he'll be excited about that, but overall, he played terrific. The way he ran the team, I think his help defensively is vastly improved from last year, so we're encouraged by that."

How dominant the Bulls will be is up in the air -- especially with the way 66 games are crammed into about four months, but there shouldn't be any doubt that it'll be a fun bunch to watch every night.

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