When the Bulls signed Richard Hamilton in Dec. 2011, people were hoping he could be that mythical shooting guard that got them "over the top" against the Heat. It seemed like a pretty good signing in theory, as Hamilton was a veteran with plenty of championship experience that could wreak havoc working off Derrick Rose. Hamilton also was known for giving Dwyane Wade fits, which could have been valuable in a potential series against Miami.
However, there were also signs that Hamilton was nearing the end of the road. In his last two seasons with the Pistons, he had issues with injuries, his coach and just an overall decline in his play. He played in just 101 out of a possible 164 games and shot the ball as poorly as he ever had in his career.
Things got off to a good start with the Bulls, but then the injuries started coming. And coming. And coming. In his two seasons in Chicago, Hamilton has never been able to stay on the floor, missing 38 games last year and 21 and counting this year. He has been out since Feb. 28 with "back spasms," and now there are rumblings that he may miss the remainder of the season. Tom Thibodeau addressed that question on Monday (via the Chicago Tribune):
"There's an unknown," Thibodeau said. "It's a back, so those things are tricky. We'll just have to wait and see."
Nick Friedell followed up the bit in the Trib with a little deeper look at the situation, noting that Hamilton hasn't even been traveling with the team and that he's pretty much "a forgotten man in the Bulls' locker room." That's somewhat humorous, because he was pretty much a forgotten man when he has actually played this year. After injuries derailed another relatively strong start, Rip was put on the Bogans Plan, lucky to get over 20 minutes a game. And he was usually pretty awful in those minutes, barely shooting over 40 percent over the course of the past few months.
The whole situation is a bit of a shame, because we did see a brief glimpse of what we were hoping for in Game 1 against the Sixers last year. Rose and Hamilton were finally looking healthy together, but then Rose tore his ACL and that was that. Once Rose was dunzo, it would have been nice to have seen Hamilton dealt this offseason as opposed to Kyle Korver, but alas.
If Hamilton truly does sit out the rest of the year, it's almost a guarantee that he won't play another game in a Bulls uniform. He has a $1 million buyout for next season, although it would be nice to see the Bulls try and get something for him. If they really had to, perhaps they could send cash to facilitate a buyout. But in any case, I see almost no chance in hell Hamilton is on the roster next season.
The failed Hamilton experiment helps strengthen the argument for those who think the front office has done a poor job in recent years when it comes to acquiring impact free agents. The Bulls have had a propensity to sign aging veterans with limited athleticism on the verge of decline, whether it be Hamilton, Kirk Hinrich, Ben Wallace or Carlos Boozer. There have been some solid signings in there as well, but most of the "big" ones have been disappointments.
Going forward, it would be nice to see the Bulls target more youthful and athletic talent. That certainly doesn't guarantee anything either, but I'm sick of seeing the same type of free agent fail in Chicago.