Just last week, when Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau ran down the injury list, he singled out Richard Hamilton as the one guy who wasn't close to coming back.
So it was a mild surprise when Thibodeau announced before Tuesday's game against Toronto that Hamilton was ready to return from a back injury. In his first game action since Feb. 26, the veteran shooting guard hit 2 of 5 shots for 4 points in 15 minutes.
"I wanted to see him more against contact and he's actually moved along quite well," Thibodeau said. "He's been running for a while, he's been shooting for a while and now, he's been doing everything in practice, so the next step is to play. We'll see where he is."
Marco Belinelli started at shooting guard and Hamilton checked in to cheers from the home crowd in the final minute of the first quarter. He looked OK, hitting 2 of 4 shots from the field in the first quarter.
During a post-practice workout Monday at the Berto Center, Hamilton looked like someone who was ready to play. In one drill, coaches set balls on the floor in random spots, which meant Hamilton had to bend over, pick them up and hit a shot. His back seemed to hold up well.
"He's been out a long time, so there's going to be some rust," Thibodeau added. "But he's an excellent playmaker, so he has the ability to make other people better."
Deng, Taj, Noah sit:
The rest of the Bulls' injury report stayed the same. Luol Deng (sore hip) and Taj Gibson (left knee sprain) sat out Tuesday, but may be ready to play later in the week.
Joakim Noah was also out of the lineup Tuesday. After missing eight games, he returned to play 21 minutes in Detroit on Sunday but had a recurrence of plantar fasciitis in his feet. There's no telling when Noah might play again, but the Bulls will surely be cautious, hoping to get him healthy for the playoffs.
"He put a lot of time into his rehab so he's somewhat discouraged, but he can't be discouraged," Thibodeau said of Noah. "He just has to keep doing what he's doing and hopefully he'll be ready to go before the end of the season."
Nazr Mohammed flew to Atlanta after practice and watched Monday's NCAA title game. He played for Louisville coach Rick Pitino at Kentucky. … Connecticut native Tom Thibodeau said he was pulling for the UConn women and coach Geno Auriemma to win another NCAA championship. "I've met (Auriemma) a couple times along the way," Thibodeau said. "What he's done is just amazing. To do it at the level he's done it at the level he's done it, I don't know if there's anyone better."