- Scott Powers, Reporter
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The effects of a compacted season along with turning 34 in February led to an injury-plagued season for Hamilton in his first year with the Bulls. Hamilton dealt with a groin injury early in the season and then was sidelined some more with a shoulder injury. In all, he missed 38 games, played in 28 and averaged 11.6 points.
Hamilton expects his second year in Chicago to play out differently. Aside from having a standard regular season, Hamilton is hopeful he can stay healthy because he realizes he has to prepare his body differently than in past years. With that in mind, he added to his offseason routine a physical therapist for stretching and massages.
“It was one of them things you know when you play so hard people tell you have to do certain stuff because you’re getting older,” the 13-year veteran Hamilton said after Wednesday’s practice. “I tell myself I think I’m still 27 sometimes, but you know they say everybody thinks that when they go past their 30s.
“It was one of them things I try to get an advantage. I’m always looking for a situation when I can just get the advantage if it’s anything, someone tell me whatever it is. Therapist was one. That’s how I went this summer.”
Hamilton also sees having a full training camp this season as another advantage. A year ago, he felt everything was so rushed, and he never had an opportunity to gain a complete grasp on his teammates and Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau’s system.
“Last year, I didn’t even get to play in training camp, so everything was learned on the floor with no practice,” Hamilton said. “It’s fun for me now because I now get an opportunity to really learn Thibs, learn the system, learn everything.
“Offensively, I’ve always been a player who really studied the offense, knowing where to get shots, knowing where things are open and things like that. Last year, I was like on the fly. How do I use Carlos Boozer to my advantage? How I do I use Joakim Noah to my advantage?”
Hamilton’s scoring average last season was his worst since his rookie year and his numbers have declined the past two years. Yet Thibodeau still believes Hamilton can make an impact for the Bulls, and he isn’t concern isn’t with the guard’s game.
“The issue with Rip has never been when he played,” Thibodeau said. “The issue with Rip has been missing the games. Rip’s a terrific player because it’s not only his scoring, but it’s his ability to make plays. Often times off our catch-and-shoot plays we’re getting paint catches because of the commitment teams have to make to him.
“He’s such an unselfish player. If he has two players on him, he’s going to hit the open man. The ball moves freely. If there’s an open shot, he shoots. If he’s guarded, he makes a play. And he’s got a lot of experience, that’s a big plus. I think he and Carlos play extremely well together. That’s another plus.”
The final plus is so far, so good for Hamilton and his body. After two days of practice, he said his body feels the complete opposite of what it did last season.
“It’s night and day,” Hamilton said. “It’s physical and mental. It’s night and day.”
1dMatt Walks, ESPN.com
1dJason McCallum, ESPN Stats & Info