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Sunday, December 18, 2011
Christmas Countdown: A loaded backcourt

By Nick Friedell

CJ Watson and Derrick Rose
With C.J. Watson backing up Derrick Rose, the Bulls aren't lacking backcourt depth.

DEERFIELD, Ill. -- C.J. Watson knows there are a lot of teams in the league that would give him more minutes than he plays night to night for the Chicago Bulls. But he also realizes that if he truly wants to win a championship in his career, this season could give him his best chance.

"It gets frustrating," Watson admitted after Sunday's practice. "I want to play. But I'm playing behind one of the best point guards in the league, and also, we're winning. If we were losing, then it would be a different story. But I just want to go out there and play. I know each and every day I'm going to go out there and get better playing against him in practice. I'm going to try and make him better, too."

That type of attitude is one the reasons Bulls' management is so enthused about their backcourt heading into the season.

Derrick Rose is the reigning MVP and should be the cornerstone of the franchise for the next decade. The Bulls are set for a long time at the point guard position. Meanwhile, Watson has proven to be a valuable scorer off the bench and looked much more comfortable in his role as last season rolled along. His desire to start will only push him harder in practices throughout the season.

For the first time in more than a year, the two guard position seems to be locked in as well. While he still hasn't come right out and said it, Bulls head coach Tom Thibodeau will most likely put newly acquired Rip Hamilton in the starting lineup at some point in the very near future. At 33, Hamilton may not be exactly like the player he once was, but he is certainly an upgrade over Keith Bogans at the two. Hamilton has already made an impression on his new teammates and seems to have fit in nicely alongside Rose, at least in practice.

"It's going pretty good," Hamilton said after Sunday's practice of his new transition. "The guys are really helping me out on the sets and things like that. A lot of the sets are pretty much the same, but it's a lot of terminology. Every day I get a little bit better."

Rose believes people are making too much out of the fact that Hamilton has supposedly lost a step.

"They're definitely overlooking that," he said of Hamilton's conditioning. "When we were scrimmaging sometimes he was ahead of me the majority of the time."

Hamilton's arrival means that either Kyle Korver and/or Ronnie Brewer will have their playing time reduced over the course of the season. Yet another good problem to have if you're Thibodeau. There are teams in this league who would be happy to start Korver or Brewer.

The pair seems to have improved over the summer and both men are hungry to show what they can do. If Korver can become more consistent from beyond the arc, he will probably find more minutes than Brewer. Having said that, Brewer might have played his best consecutive games of the season last year during the Eastern Conference finals against the Miami Heat. If Thibodeau needs a defensive stop late in a game against Miami, he will probably turn to Brewer once again.

The bottom line for this unit is that it is amongst the best in basketball top to bottom heading into the season. If each man plays up to his capabilities, the Bulls are going to have the type of guard depth that most coaches would salivate over. Not to mention the fact that rookie Jimmy Butler figures to get some minutes at the two and the three.

The key for Thibodeau is to find a way to keep everyone happy. Hamilton believes his new coach will be able to do that.

"The biggest thing is, everybody knows their role," Hamilton said. "And Thibs holds everybody accountable. When you've got that, good things can happen."