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updated: 1/4/2012 4:22 AM

Atlanta's Hinrich still recovering

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As well as the Atlanta Hawks played on Tuesday at the United Center, they were missing a key player and familiar face.

Longtime Bulls guard Kirk Hinrich had surgery during the summer to repair a torn labrum in his left shoulder and is probably three to four weeks from returning to action.

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Before Tuesday's game, he was examined by Bulls team physician Brian Cole and cleared to begin non-contact workouts.

"It's definitely good news, because originally when I had the surgery, I thought it was going to be a lot longer," Hinrich said.

He's not sure how or when the shoulder injury occurred, but suspects it may have been damaged for a few years. During last year's playoffs, Hinrich tore his hamstring and missed the second-round series against the Bulls.

"Yeah, it was a rough summer," he said.

This is Hinrich's second season away from the Bulls after playing here for seven years. Needless to say, he has fond feelings for his former home arena.

"This is still a place where I'm so appreciative of the fans," he said. "It was the only thing I knew when I was here. Once you see the other side of things, you go different places and every place is a little different. This is definitely a place I enjoyed playing, for sure."

Rip returns to Palace:

Richard Hamilton hasn't even been with the Bulls three full weeks and already he's headed back to his longtime home in Detroit. The Bulls visit the Pistons Wednesday for the start of a three-game road trip.

Hamilton, who sat out his second straight game with a groin injury, declined to talk about his return to Detroit on Monday. Two players still remain from the Pistons' run of reaching the Eastern Conference finals for six straight years -- Tayshaun Prince and Ben Wallace.

Last year didn't go so well, with Hamilton getting benched for a spell by coach John Kuester, who has been replaced by Lawrence Frank.

"He's a great veteran," coach Tom Thibodeau said of Hamilton. "He's been limited in practice the last few days, but he does whatever he can and he's right there, studying. He does his job, gets there early with his rehab, stays late."

Lucas watches and learns:

John Lucas III is six years older than Derrick Rose, but the Bulls backup point guard says he's actually learned plenty from his younger teammate.

"His mentality; the way he's just poised on the court," Lucas said. "He doesn't get rattled. He's just smooth. Nothing gets to him. That stuff kind of feeds off everybody on our team. Even when it's not going our way on the court, look at him, he's still poised, like, 'We're good. Don't worry about it. I've got this.'"

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