DEERFIELD, Ill. -- The reality of where Rip Hamilton is at in his career right now has hit him recently.
"I'm kind of like the Old G right now," Hamilton said with a laugh after Sunday's practice. "And it's kind of crazy because time flies when you're playing basketball and you're having fun. I didn't realize that until Luol [Deng] said, 'Yeah, I remember coming to watch you play when you were 14 when I played for the Wizards. And Derrick [Rose] was saying, 'I remember being at your house when I was in 11th grade.' So it's different and that kind of wakes you up and you say, 'Man, I've been here for a long time,' but it's fun, it's exciting because you got an opportunity to win."
At 33, Hamilton isn't exactly an old man, but on this season's Bulls roster he might as well be. Now that Kurt Thomas and Keith Bogans have moved on, Hamilton is the oldest player on the roster. He's also the newest, having just signed his contract Wednesday.The veteran shooter seems to be fitting in nicely with his younger teammates. He's already pick up on the fact that the Bulls are a tight group that is only concerned about winning.
"When you love each other and you love your teammates, you don't think about anything else but winning," he said, when asked if having too much depth could cause problems sometimes on teams. "So if you're cheering for your guy, you know that you're on a string, you're only as good as your teammate, then not at all."
That type of attitude will sit well with coach Tom Thibodeau.
"I think each day he gets more and more comfortable," Bulls head coach Tom Thibodeau said. "He's been around. He's a pro's pro. He comes into work, he gets here early. He's studying hard. So he's doing fine so far."
Hamilton is supposed to be the piece the Bulls needed at the two guard position this season. His new teammates and coaches believe he can fill that role quickly.
"I think his experience, he played with Chauncey [Billups] for a long time," Thibodeau said. "And Chauncey's a great pick and roll player, post up player. I think talented players always figure out how to play with each other. That's never a problem. The thing that I like is, Rip's very unselfish. I think he fits in very well from that standpoint."
Thibodeau admitted that he used to have problems devising game plans to stop Hamilton as an assistant. It's clear that he believes Hamilton hasn't lost a step.
"With a scorer like that, it's very difficult to stop him individually," Thibodeau said. "What you're trying to do is make him work for his points. We always [tried to] trap his pick and rolls and his catch and shoot plays. And just try not to give him any clean looks when he can get into rhythm. But he's hard to guard because of the way he moves without the ball. And I don't know if we had much success against him. He's a great player. With great players, you just got to try to make them work for those points."
Speaking of working for points, Bulls rookie Jimmy Butler did exactly that during Friday night's first preseason game against the Indiana Pacers. The Marquette alum scored eight of them and gained a lot of praise in the process.
"He's worked very hard. He's studied hard. He's prepared himself well thus far," Thibodeau said after the game. "Now he has to show that he can do it over the course of the season. But I think he's got the right attitude and the right approach and that's the first step."
For his part, Butler seems like the type of player who will fit into Thibodeau's system. He plays hard and doesn't show any signs of being afraid on the floor. If he keeps that up over the course of the shortened season, he will find a way to crack the rotation.
"I'm encouraged by him," Thibodeau said after Sunday's practice. "And if the opportunity comes where he has to play, he's going to play. He's done a good job thus far."
It's clear that his teammates are encouraged by his play as well.