The two that were, and will the Bulls have Rip Hamilton for the three to come?

If you haven't already, make sure you read Alex's recap of the weekend contests. To me, one really encouraging game that more than balanced out the discouragement from the following night. The way the Bulls were able to throttle Orlando on the boards to pull away late was really something, and like Stan Van Gundy said postgame, his team is a level below the Bulls.

The Bulls are also likely a level above Atlanta as well, but between Saturday night's bomb and the Bulls epic comeback win the prior week, the Hawks are looking like a potentially tougher postseason out than they were last season. Or at least: just as tough and maybe the familiarity by now making it more annoying. As Alex noted, there are some facets that could be blamed on fatigue (lack of closing out on shooters, and even the low foul number), but not all. Everyone has a tough schedule this season, and some simply weird results are likely to occur, but maybe the Hawks are less impacted by such things because they rarely play with sustained aggression or discipline anyway. They do have good top-level talent, pose a matchup problem for the Bulls, and specifically for Derrick Rose in the way they can trap. Almost a Miami-lite.

What was done in the offseason to help counteract such a defensive tactic was signing Rip Hamilton, and his ongoing groin injury is still, well ongoing:

"It takes time, man," Hamilton said of his sore groin. "I probably should've have played [against Detroit] but you couldn't keep me off that floor."

Hamilton injured his groin in a Dec. 30 win over the Clippers and came back too soon to play against his former teammates in Detroit and re-aggravated it. At this point, it could be several days before Hamilton is ready to return, although coach Tom Thibodeau maintains he's day to day.

"The thing that's difficult right now is he's not practicing so you don't really know what he can do and what he can't do," Thibodeau said. "We just want to be smart."

There is slightly better news for CJ Watson, whose elbow is now out of a sling, though no timetable has been set on his return either.

John Lucas has been way better than (I) expected, and Kyle Korver has shot the ball really well the past couple of nights, and it goes without saying the Bulls are well-equipped to handle minor issues like this. But while it's all about the future playoffs run, it'll be nice to use some regular season games to get the likely starting unit on the same page.

And look what's next, the back-to-back-to-back. It's never really going to be easy.

Other random stuff:

  • Done before the Atlanta game, some interesting stats on Derrick Rose's increased passing (both willingness and effectiveness) on the pick and roll.
  • Random tidbit in Sam Smith's Orlando game recap that I liked:
    I’ve noticed that the Bulls open every game with a Deng shot, which it seems Thibodeau uses as a reward for Deng’s hard play and big minutes. Larry Brown always gave shots to Ben Wallace in Detroit as a thank you even though they were, essentially, wasted efforts the way Wallace shot. But it is a way coaches show appreciation.
  • And here's a check-in on former Bull James Johnson that made me chuckle:
    he reminds me of an advent calendar. You open up little doors looking for magic and usually you get a milk dud. I like his energy, I like his intentions. I don’t like what he produces.
  • There's a Bulls Beat podcast up recapping the weekend games, and going through some big-picture roster configuration stuff. Wondering when the starting Boozer-Noah lineup be addressed (not soon, but the question is creeping up more and more), and if Jimmy Butler has a solid rookie year who he's most likely going to replace in the rotation going forward.
  • As the Bulls were in Orlando, lots of Dwight Howard to Bulls re-hashing: SamSmith/SheridanHoops/Chasing23. No real news though, Otis Smith isn't really listening, and Derrick Rose isn't going to talk.
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