Hamilton giving Bulls what they needed

CHICAGO -- When Chicago Bulls GM Gar Forman signed Rip Hamilton just before the season started, it was a game like Monday night's 110-95 win over the New Jersey Nets that he envisioned in his head.

Playing without Luol Deng, Hamilton racked up a huge stat line, scoring 22 points, dishing out 10 assists and logging 42 minutes in the win, during which he recorded his 15,000th career point. While the numbers were certainly nice, it was his playmaking ability that caught his teammates' attention.

"He passes better than I do," Bulls point guard Derrick Rose said with a laugh. "So he's definitely going to help us."

Hamilton proved yet again on this night that, when healthy, he has the ability and experience to be the piece the Bulls appeared to be missing last season at the two guard position. He sees lanes on the floor that no one else sees and he has the ability to make passes that most players his size can't make. Hamilton has the rare ability to get all of his teammates involved in the game.

"It makes my job easier," Rose said. "Knowing that he's a shooting guard and he's got nine assists, five assists, six assists a game. It makes my job easier."

Seeing that quote from the Bulls' best player makes the investment in Hamilton seem even smarter.

Yes, he was brought in to score and be a focal point of the Bulls' offense, but he was also brought in for his championship experience and his ability to communicate with his young teammates.

"He's just such a vet," Bulls center Joakim Noah said. "You can just tell he's been playing this style, his game, for a long time. It looks like it hasn't changed one bit. He demands a lot of attention. And he's opening up the floor for a lot of players."

After spending two miserable years in Detroit, Hamilton is clearly enjoying his role in Chicago. He knows the Bulls have the ability to win a championship this year, and he also realizes that he will probably have to take a bigger role in the offense if Luol Deng is going to be out for a while because of a wrist injury.

"With me, it's not all about scoring," Hamilton said. "There's so many great players on this team. My job is to try and make everybody's job easy. If it's scoring, if it's passing, or whatever, that's what I try to do."

Hamilton's image took a hit during those last seasons in Detroit and many critics wondered if he would become a locker room cancer with the Bulls. But those fears have been quickly put to rest.

"He's always talking to guys in the locker room about where they can be effective," Noah said. "It just gives everybody confidence."

Everybody, including Bulls head coach Tom Thibodeau.

"For Rip, it's every aspect of the game,” Thibodeau said. "He gives you great leadership, playmaking ability. Big shot-making ability. And more importantly, he makes the right play. When he is open he shoots and when he is guarded, he makes the right read. If he is double teamed, he knows where the holes are. He makes the game simple. He gets easy shots for people. He runs the floor and he never stops moving. He makes the offense hard to be defended. That becomes contagious."

And that's exactly why his teammates love playing with him so much. They realize that Hamilton has been to the mountaintop before and they want him to help show them the way back. They want Hamilton to fill the void that was so evident during their playoff run last season.

"Rip is a scoring machine," Rose said. "Someone that you have to respect when he's on the floor ... he's definitely going to find everyone. I tell people you've just got to be able to be able to hit open shots when you're playing with him."

That's exactly the kind of thing that Forman wants to hear.