Rip Hamilton worries over groin

AUBURN HILLS, Mich. -- Chicago Bulls shooting guard Rip Hamilton enjoyed his return to The Palace of Auburn Hills on Wednesday night, but he admitted that he might have tweaked the same groin which caused him to miss the past two games.

"[It's] sore," he said after the game. "First quarter it was good. I think it was just adrenaline. Second quarter I felt a little pull. But there was no way that I was getting off the court. I got to ice it down and stim and get treatment and stuff like that."

After being a game-time decision on Wednesday, he ended up playing 32 minutes, scoring 14 points with five assists in the Bulls' 99-83 victory.

While he enjoyed his return, Hamilton also said he never thought he would leave the Detroit Pistons and figured he would end his career with the franchise.

"I did," Hamilton said. "Me and Chauncey [Billups] both. We always talked about that since we first got here. That was our main goal, 'OK, let's go out together.' When the whole extension came up, that was the whole [plan]. Let's go out together and that was our biggest thing."

Hamilton, who signed with the Bulls on Dec. 14 after spending nine seasons in Detroit, admitted that he didn't expect to be bought out.

"I didn't know," he said. "I didn't know one bit. When the lockout ended, I thought I was coming [to Detroit]. And I was here for the first day of training camp, but the buyout came."

Hamilton said he did not like the way his time with the Pistons came to an end, especially the way he was perceived as being the "ringleader" in an unstable Pistons' locker room under former coach John Kuester.

"When you're the highest paid player on the team, you're the leader," Hamilton said. "And you're team captain. You got to take the good and the bad. I always say, you ask the guys in the locker room, they'll tell you. They'll tell you who I am. Ask the coaching staff. They'll tell you who I am.

"All the sources and allegations that they put out, it hurt me. Because I thought that as long as I lay it all on the line for an organization, regardless, they will always have your back. And I see that wasn't the case."

He chatted a bit on the court with some of his former teammates before the game, and when he was announced as a starter, he received a warm welcome from Detroit fans, many of whom stood and applauded.

Hamilton said it was tough to play on the visitor's side against the Pistons.

"It was fun, man," he said. "I couldn't wait for the ball to be thrown up. A lot of emotion early in the game being on the visitor's side and not accustomed to it in this building. It was difficult. I was like 'Please, man. Don't start crying or anything crazy like that.' But just hurry up and get the ball thrown up so I can go out there and play."

Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau was proud of the way the veteran responded while facing his old team.

"I thought he handled the whole situation really well," he said. "Got himself ready to play, was focused, and to start the game, he came out and was play-making. He wasn't trying to do too much and I think that speaks to his experience. He plays to win and I thought he was terrific."

Nick Friedell covers the Bulls for ESPNChicago.com and ESPN 1000. Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.