Hamilton returns, doesn't sweat rumors

CHICAGO -- After missing nearly a month because of a torn plantar fascia in his left foot, Chicago Bulls guard Richard Hamilton returned to the floor in Saturday night's 87-77 win over the Washington Wizards, scoring nine points in 15 minutes.

"I felt pretty good," Hamilton said. "It was sore, but I kind of told the trainers and stuff the adrenaline, being out on the floor, will be easy for me to not think about the pain and things like that. But I felt good. I was able to get to my spots on the floor and that was the biggest thing I was worried about, the change in direction, especially when somebody's guarding me and having to take a hit and things like that."

Hamilton, who missed 38 games last season because of various injuries, was a welcome addition to a lineup that has struggled to find an offensive rhythm throughout the year. The veteran admitted that Bulls head coach Tom Thibodeau placed him on a 15-20 minute limit for the foreseeable future. Asked if it was the coach or the doctors who put the limit on, Hamilton couldn't help but chuckle.

"He might be the doctor and the coach," Hamilton said of Thibodeau.

For his part, Thibodeau was glad to put Hamilton back in the starting lineup.

"Good," Thibodeau said of Hamilton's performance, "taking everything into consideration and the amount of time that he's been out. Particularly in the second half I thought he had a pretty good rhythm going. He created separation and moved extremely well without the ball, so that was a big plus. We need his minutes, we need his shots, we need his points."

That sentiment echoed throughout the Bulls' locker room. Despite Hamilton's previous injuries, he was playing well before he got hurt as the Bulls ran a lot of offensive sets in his direction.

"It was great," center Joakim Noah said of Hamilton's return. "He can score in his sleep. Having Rip out there definitely helps, it's just another weapon for us. Having him is huge."

Having Hamilton back also means that veteran shooter Marco Belinelli heads back to the bench after an impressive December. Because of Hamilton's limited playing time, Belinelli, who scored 17 on Saturday night, and second-year swingman Jimmy Butler will still see minutes, but Thibodeau still isn't sure just how many each will get it. It's because of Belinelli's solid play and Butler's energy off the bench that Hamilton's name has popped up in a lot of trade speculation throughout the league.

"I don't pay attention to it," said, who has a team option at the end of this season. "It happens every year. Every year, if you ain't in a trade rumor, then you ain't doing something right. That's how I always looked at it. That's the way this game goes, you hear about stuff every day because GM's are talking to different players every day. It's nothing that I even get caught up or think about or anything like that."

Hamilton, who signed with the Bulls right before the start of last season, is still convinced this team can make a run at a championship if and when it gets Derrick Rose back in the fold.

"We got a chance," Hamilton said. "I think our biggest thing is health. I think last year that was our biggest thing -- health. I think this year it's probably going to be the same thing. Talent-wise and skill-wise, that's a no brainer. It's just for us, (the key is) kind of just being healthy."