CHICAGO -- After missing the past 19 games because of a lower back injury, veteran shooting guard Rip Hamilton will make his return to the lineup against the Toronto Raptors on Tuesday night.
"Yeah, we're going to play him tonight," Bulls head coach Tom Thibodeau said before the game. "He's going to have a chance to play some minutes. Not a lot. He's come along. He's feeling better so we'll see where he is.
"It's one thing to be able to do that in practice and it's another to be able to do it in a game, and then of course, we have to see how he responds tomorrow after the game. But we're glad that he's back."
Thibodeau indicated last week that Hamilton was still a long way from returning, but things have changed in recent days for the 35 year old.
"Because I wanted to see him more against contact," Thibodeau said, while describing what changed in regards to Hamilton's status. "He's actually moved along quite well. And again, we don't want to put guys out there who are injured so we wanted to make sure that he was ready to make the next step. At this time of the year it's important to be patent."
Hamilton has missed 32 games this year and 38 games last year because of various injuries.
"He has been down for a while now," Thibodeau said. "We had to get his back to calm down. He's been running for a while, shooting for a while and now he's doing everything in practice. The next step is to play so we'll see where he is. He's been out a long time so there is going to be rust but he's an excellent playmaker and he has the ability to make other people better."
Hamilton's addition to the lineup comes as a surprise considering Thibodeau initially said after Tuesday morning's shootaround that he was out. Joakim Noah (plantar fasciitis), Derrick Rose (knee), Luol Deng (hip) and Taj Gibson (knee) will not play. Marco Belinelli (ab strain) will be available.