- Melissa Isaacson, Columnist, ESPNChicago.com
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DEERFIELD, Ill. -- Despite calling his first Chicago Bulls practice "very confusing," and admitting that donning a Chicago uniform will be "very awkward" at first, Rip Hamilton said he will do whatever his new team needs in order to win a championship, even if it means not starting.
"I'm coming to do whatever the coach and the organization want me to do," Hamilton said. "If they want me to come in and play 20 minutes, I'm going to do that. If they want me to play 30 I'll do that."
"Whatever the team needs, whatever the team needs, man, because the biggest thing I want is to win a world championship," Hamilton said. "I won it once, had an opportunity to win it again and didn't. Now it's the opportunity to feel good that you have a chance again. I'm excited."
Hamilton, who signed a two-year, $10 million contract with a team option for a third season after playing the last nine seasons with Detroit, called his new team "an awesome fit," though he stopped short of saying he was the missing piece.
"We'll all see," Hamilton said. "I love the game of basketball. I think I can help this team in so many different ways, and I'm excited about it. They've got a great group of guys. Today, in the first day of practice, they really showed me they want to be out here. It wasn't a thing where we all came out and showed up and everybody went through the motions. When the clock turned 10, 11 o'clock, they were ready to go. I liked it. I liked it a lot."
Thibodeau said he was unsure if Hamilton will play in the Bulls first exhibition game Friday night against the Pacers in Indianapolis but liked what he saw Thursday.
"He looked good, he's in good shape, picks things up quickly," Thibodeau said. "He's been around. He's a pro's pro, smart, high energy. He did a good job."
The Bulls will look to the 6-foot-6 guard to take pressure off Rose offensively, and Hamilton's career 17.7-point scoring average over 12 seasons suggests he will, despite the fact that his average dipped to 14.1 points in just 39 starts last season.
"I've played against those guys for nine, 10 straight years and in the Eastern Conference finals," Hamilton said. "At this point and time, when you get into the playoffs, you know what I like to do, and I know what you like to do. It's a dogfight. Now we're going to see who is going to outwill each other. I've been there. I love it. I live for it. I'm excited to get back there."
Thibodeau went along with comparing Hamilton to Celtics guard Ray Allen in their ability to find their shots and their difficulty to guard, and agrees with Hamilton that he's a great fit with the Bulls.
"I think he fits in with our team because of the fact that he's unselfish and he requires you to put two on the ball," Thibodeau said. "Most teams are going to trap him on the catch-and-shoot plays, and he'll hit the open man. So it gives us something else we can go to. I like his size at that position, I think that can help us, and his experience. I think that goes a long way."
Playing defense will be expected under Thibodeau, whose Bulls were the NBA's top defensive team. And Hamilton, who turns 34 in February, said he was excited to get back to his roots.
"I knew, my goodness, since I was 24, 25 and coach Larry Brown coached me, he really stressed defense," Hamilton said. "That's how we won a world championship in Detroit. He really didn't care about the offense. We knew we could shut teams down and in certain games your shot wasn't going to fall and things like that, but you can't let a team beat you by hustle and defense.
"I'm glad to be in a situation where I'm getting back to those key things."
Hamilton admitted that learning a new system will be a big adjustment.
"I learned a lot today," he said. "Today wasn't even basketball to me. It was pretty much like I was in college again, in class, learning all the sets and finding out where I need to be on the offensive end, the defensive end, the drills, everything. It was very confusing for me today. I thought I was just going to come in and all of a sudden turn it on but it didn't work that way ...
"One of the biggest things is adjusting to the guys on the floor, understand their likes and dislikes and things like that. Hopefully, I can learn fast."
Hamilton said teaming up with Rose is "very, very (exciting). There are not too many opportunities to play with the MVP of the league," he said. "The kid is very special. The kid can do any and everything. He showed that last year. I just want to help. I just want to be there when he needs my back and be able to ride with him."
Bulls general manager Gar Forman said Hamilton should complement Rose in a number of ways.
"Rip has been a guy who has consistently scored in this league," he said. "He can knock down shots. You have to know where he is. You have to guard him. He's got a great motor, he's continuing to move, he can run the floor. He can run all day. He can move without the ball and put pressure on a defense that way, and his ability to hit shots puts pressure on the defense."
Determined not to lose that edge he has had as one of the toughest players to keep up with in the game, Hamilton said he will make no concessions to getting older.
"The only thing I lost was that trophy at 26," he said, "and now it's time to try to get that thing back."
Melissa Isaacson is a columnist for ESPNChicago.com.
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