Richard Hamilton and the Chicago Bulls never really clicked. More specifically, Richard Hamilton and Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau never really clicked.
Hamilton was signed to great fanfare in the late autumn of 2011 after being bought out by the Detroit Pistons. His floor spacing and off-ball movement should have fit in seamlessly on a Bulls team featuring a similarly active Luol Deng, Joakim Noah, and a pre-injury Derrick Rose. Hamilton’s contributions faltered in his two seasons with the team, however, and his role continued to shrink to the point to where he was sitting out entire playoff games despite the Bulls being woefully shorthanded on the perimeter due to injury.
The Bulls eventually waived Hamilton using the stretch provision, paying him to go away. Though he’s not coming off as particularly nasty in a recent interview with Mike McGraw of the Arlington Heights Daily Herald, Hamilton isn’t exactly fondly recalling his time with the team:
"When I played there, practice was tough," said Hamilton, who spent two seasons with the Bulls from 2011-13. "I never experienced anything like that until I actually got to Chicago. It's well-documented that practices are a little too long, they're a little too hard and things like that.
"So if you want Derrick [Rose] (healthy) for the whole year, you've got to protect him. You've got to protect his body. When you know it's game time, 'You know what? We're not going to play him 35, 40 minutes a game. It might be 20 minutes a game.'”
Derrick Rose’s minutes are down this year, to 26.5 a game, and he’s sat out seven of 17 games while nursing ankle and hamstring injuries. Tom Thibodeau has also saw fit to play Rose in more than one game that he should never have played in, however, and overuse issues still abound for these Bulls.
“These Bulls” were built, ostensibly, to work deep into the playoffs. If these Bulls made the NBA Finals this season, those Finals would tip off six full months from right now. Right now, these Bulls are in the middle of a back-to-back pair of games. Right now, Bulls center (forget where they list him, he’s their center) Pau Gasol is coming off of a contest that saw Tom Thibodeau play him 50 minutes in a loss to Dallas. Right now, Pau Gasol is 34 years old, and he’s coming off of two injury-plagued seasons.
Now, Gasol looks healthy and he played terrific, thumbs-up basketball for the Bulls on Tuesday – 29 points, with 14 rebounds. Also, the contest against Dallas went into two overtimes, and the Bulls badly needed Gasol out there for those extra 10 minutes.
Those extra ten minutes, however, came after 34-year old Pau Gasol played 40 minutes in the first night of a back-to-back during regulation. Yes, injured forwards Taj Gibson and Doug McDermott played into those ticks, but Tom Thibodeau has to find a better way to manage these things. Sometimes not playing your best players is the best way to get the best out of your best players.
Pau Gasol, because he’s Pau Gasol, doesn’t seem to mind. From a discussion with Sean Highkin at Bleacher Report:
“Everybody is fatigued,” he said. “In that situation, both teams are playing under the same conditions. I would feel better if we had gotten the win.”
That’s fine, in reference to what the Dallas Mavericks are going through on Dec. 2 while in Chicago for one night. What about the sorts of players Chicago wants to play in late May or June? Kevin Love has played 40 minutes in a game just once this year, and that was in an overtime contest. The San Antonio Spurs routinely rest players. Kevin Durant just had a month off of his feet. Even Pau’s younger brother Marc plays fewer minutes than him, and he might be the league’s MVP thus far.
This isn’t even getting into the practices, practices that Rip Hamilton told the Daily Herald were the first ever that he had to tape for and take on ice therapy afterward.
It’s a long season. Everyone needs a reminder, sometimes.
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