Does Rip Hamilton’s Return Create Problems for Chicago Bulls?

Mike DiNovo-USA TODAY Sports

Chicago Bulls will be spending this New Year’s Eve hosting the Charlotte Bobcats this afternoon. We all know that Michael Jordan can’t imagine a better way to closeout this year than for his 7-23 Bobcats to somehow secure a win in the house Air Jordan built. Slim chances considering Charlotte’s last win was on November 24 against the Washington Wizards, who the Bulls just defeated 87-77 on Saturday.

Back-to-back games against two of the NBA’s weakest teams should be a welcomed respite for Chicago after the nightmare on Christmas game against the Houston Rockets. Rip Hamilton returned to action in the Wizards game after being out 12 games with a left foot injury. Rip’s return created ripple effects in the rotation that must be monitored in upcoming games.

The simple fact is that Marco Belinelli was finally turning it up at shooting guard in Rip’s absence. After a slow start to the season, it seemed that Marco found his way with more minutes and is averaging 15.6 points in the last 10 games. It’s no secret the Bulls are desperate for scoring. Belinelli gets buckets in a lot of different ways, can run the transition game, and just seems more aggressive on both ends of the court. Hamilton does some of these things as well and is an excellent free throw shooter.

But the jury is still out on Rip’s time in Chicago. He was plagued with injuries in last year’s shortened lockout season. And while he’s posted consistent double-digit scoring nights before getting injured this season, including 30 in a loss to the Milwaukee Bucks, fans sometimes are ambivalent towards him. He’s kind of just there at times. We need more.

For now, the two will timeshare the position, but with the Orlando Magic and Miami Heat on tap for the next two games, Tom Thibodeau needs to put together some combinations on the floor that can actually put points up and bring relentless energy from the opening tip. Why not let Belinelli start and bring in Rip off the bench to captain a second unit that needs shooters and leadership? It’s a long season and a healthy Hamilton must be preserved.

Viva Marco!

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