After missing 38 games, including the home opener, last season because of a variety of injuries, Hamilton opened the 2012-2013 season on Wednesday, the 14th of his career, on a positive note as he scored 19 points in the Bulls' 93-87 win over the Sacramento Kings at the United Center.
"Last year I was hurt," said Hamilton, who had eight games of 19 or more points last season. "That's in the past. It felt good. It feels good to be out there battling with your teammates. It feels good to have a regular season. It feels good to get a win. So I'm definitely excited about it."
Hamilton got into an early rhythm Wednesday and knocked down three shots in the first quarter and added two more in second quarter. He scored 10 of his 19 points in the first half and made it a miserable evening for Kings guard Tyreke Evans. Hamilton shot 7-of-16 from the field, 5-of-5 from the free-throw line and added three assists and two steals.
"It was a tough night," Evans said. "He just never stops running."
It was the sort of performance Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau expected out of Hamilton. As long as Hamilton is on the court, Thibodeau knows what he's going to get from him.
"The big thing with Rip is his health," Thibodeau said. "He put a lot of effort into getting his body healthy this summer. I think it has paid off for him. Whenever he plays, he is effective. The problem was missing 38 games. He never really got into a rhythm. The first time he played an extensive stretch was in April. It was a tough year. That got his attention, and I thought he did a great job this summer putting a lot of time in."
Without Derrick Rose in the lineup for some time, the Bulls are expected to normally be a balanced scoring team as they were against the Kings. The Bulls had three players scoring between 18 and 23 points, which is very similar to the Detroit Pistons' squads Hamilton used to play for.
"That's what people forget, man," Hamilton said. "It's like the same thing that we were in Detroit. You have guys who can go out and get 30 a game. I could have done it. Rasheed (Wallace) could of did it. Chauncey (Billups) could of did it. We had players who could do it. Same thing here. Booze (Carlos Boozer) can do it. Luol (Deng) can do it. It's just that if you want to win in this league and win on a consistent basis, everybody's got to be involved. Everybody's got to play together.
"Even when Derrick is here, Derrick can average 30, he can probably average 40. He knows in order for us in the long haul and win a championship, you got to have everybody contribute. People get it mixed up. When guys play together and play the right way, they forget that any of these guys can do it, but you're willing to put your ego aside to do the best for the team.
"It's not a thing where I say I got to go out there and average 20. I never do. I never did. It's about wins and losses. If coach needs that, I'll go out and do it."