Detroit to Chicago isn’t an easy trip for a professional athlete. The two cities have long-standing rivalries in all four of the major pro sports.
Ben Wallace, Erik Kramer, Steve Kemp and Marian Hossa have made the switch. Dennis Rodman stopped in San Antonio on his way. Ben Gordon, Magglio Ordonez, Chris Chelios and Chet Lemon have gone the other direction.
On Thursday, it was Richard Hamilton’s turn to put on the Bulls practice jersey and walk into a strange practice gym with banners hanging on every wall.
“Awkward. Very awkward,” is how Hamilton described is first day with the Bulls. “When you’re with an organization for as long as I was and think you’ll retire there, now to be on another team is different. But I’m excited about my situation.”
Hamilton ended his nine-year association with the Detroit Pistons last week by agreeing to a contract buyout. On his Twitter account, Hamilton claimed to be considering other teams, but Chicago was clearly a destination he had in mind all along.
Is the veteran shooting guard the missing piece to the Bulls’ championship puzzle? Only time will tell. The Bulls should appreciate Hamilton’s response when asked if he lost any skills he had at age 25.
“I think the only thing I lost was that trophy,” said Hamilton, who helped lead the 2004 Pistons to the title. “Now it’s my time to try to get that thing back.”
Hamilton has appeared in 120 career playoff games, and Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau pointed out that Hamilton’s playoff scoring average (20.6 ppg) is higher than his regular-season average (17.7).
“He’s been a premier catch-and-shoot player in the league for a long time,” Thibodeau said. “Now, we’re not going to ask him to carry the load for the team, but I think he fits in.”
Before making this move, Hamilton said he questioned players who have played for both the Pistons and Bulls, including guard Lindsey Hunter, who was brought in to be Derrick Rose’s mentor a few years ago.
“Yeah, I talked to all of them,” Hamilton said. “I talked to Lindsey for hours. I talked to Ben Wallace for hours. I even talked to BG (Gordon). They had nothing but positive, good things to say about the organization. So I was happy.
“It was an awesome fit for me. ... They won 62 games last year, so they were already a great team before me. I thought it was an opportunity where I could help. The guys are real cool. I knew Booz (Carlos Boozer), I knew Luol (Deng), I knew D-Rose before. So I’m excited.”
Hamilton hasn’t been to the playoffs the last two years. One negative mark in an otherwise stellar career came last season when he feuded with coach John Kuester. Hamilton was benched for a number of games and there were rumors that it was caused by a tirade directed at the coach.
When asked what happened, Hamilton brushed off the disagreement with Kuester and Thibodeau didn’t care.
“That’s Detroit,” the Bulls coach said. “I’m not concerned with that at all. I worry about him when he’s with us. He comes here with a clean slate.”
Could coming off the bench be an issue here? By a variety of accounts, Ronnie Brewer has played well so far in training camp. He’s a candidate to start, but could also see minutes at small forward.
“Who starts, who comes off the bench, I’m not quite sure yet,” Thibodeau said. “We’ll see how that goes and we’ll do what’s best for the team. Either guy.”
Hamilton blamed playing just 25 minutes a game for his 14.1 scoring average last season, lowest since his rookie year of 1999-2000. He also insisted he’s not looking for any guaranteed playing time with the Bulls.
“If they want me to come in and play 20 minutes, I’m going to do that,” Hamilton said. “If they want me to come in and play 30, I’m going to do that. Whatever the team needs.”
The Bulls’ roster now stands at 13 players and general manager Gar Forman suggested the team will be in no hurry to add anyone else.Copyright © 2014 Paddock Publications, Inc. All rights reserved.