The starting backcourt of Derrick Rose and Rip Hamilton has started only eight games together.
“He’s a huge part of our team,” Rose said of Hamilton, who will return to the lineup after the All-Star break. “I’ve been saying that. His experience when he’s out there opens up the game for everyone. We’re just patient. I’m just hoping he’ll come back soon.”
Hamilton has missed 22 games with groin and thigh injuries but has been participating in contact drills and could return to the starting lineup when the Bulls host New Orleans on Feb. 28.
Coach Tom Thibodeau said he won’t rush Hamilton. He wants him to be completely healthy and will likely see reduced minutes until he gets into game shape.
“He’s doing a lot more,” Thibodeau said. “He’s taking on contact now, which is a good sign. We’ll see where we are when we get back.”
Thibodeau said coaching the Eastern Conference All-Stars will not interfere with his Bulls duties.
“[The Bulls are] always the priority,” Thibodeau said. “The All-Star Game is a great event. It’s for the league, by the league, for the fans. It’s an honor to be there, but my priority is with the Bulls. I can manage to do both.”
Confidence in Korver
Thibodeau is not concerned about Kyle Korver’s cold streak. The three-point specialist has made only 2 of his last 15 from long range, including 1 of 3 Wednesday against the Bucks.
“He just has to keep doing what he’s doing,” Thibodeau said. “There are going to be some ups and downs. He’s shown that he’s a guy that’s helping us even when he’s not making his shots because no one is leaving him. He creates great space on the floor. We have a lot of confidence that the next one is going in. We’re surprised when they don’t go in.”
Don’t expect Korver to put any shots up over the break. Like most Bulls player, he said what he needs most is a break from the game.
“I will not touch a basketball,” he said.
C.J. Watson did not play against the Bucks. Watson suffered concussion-like symptoms after running face-first into Kris Humphries in Saturday’s loss to the Nets. He didn’t play Monday against the Hawks, either.
Thibodeau is confident Watson will be ready after the break.
“There’s guidelines by the league now that I think are good,” Thibodeau said. “Once he meets those guidelines, he’ll be ready.”
In a story Wednesday comparing the Bulls defense to that of the Jordan-era Bulls, some statistics were miscalculated. The Bulls have allowed 90.3 points per game since Thibodeau arrived while limiting opponents to a .428 field-goal percentage.