Bulls' missing piece fits well

CHICAGO -- With the exception of public address announcer Tommy Edwards' formally announcing his name, over and over, as "Richard Rip Hamilton," I think we can say Rip Hamilton's transition from hated Bulls rival to starting shooting guard/missing link was seamless.

"It was like there was no transition," Carlos Boozer said. "It fit like a glove."

Hamilton, going into his 13th season in the NBA, has played against "The Glove" (Gary Payton) and "The Answer" (Allen Iverson), and now we could steal both of those nicknames to describe his fit with the Bulls, who return nearly the entire 62-win team from last season.

"You guys just don't know," Boozer said. "In practice he came in ready, in great shape; he's obviously a smooth vet."

Hamilton said everything is "on the fly" right now, and he's cool with the change. After an ignominious end to a proud career with the Detroit Pistons, he said wearing Bulls colors made no difference.

"I didn't even look down," at the jersey, he said.

In his first action with the team he used to torment as a Piston, Hamilton played nearly 30 minutes and stood out by fitting in. He scored 13 points and added six assists in the Bulls' easy 93-85 win over Indiana in the preseason finale Tuesday night at the United Center.

"I told Coach before shootaround today, I want to just be thrown in the fire, I want to get all the rust out," he said. "It was fun to be out there with the guys."

In a game that didn't feel like a preseason contest, the Bulls shot 50 percent and limited Indiana to 36.8 percent, with only Tyler Hansbrough (24 points, 13 rebounds) doing damage. Tom Thibodeau didn't have much to complain about after the game.

"For Thibs, he was in a pretty good mood, actually," Boozer said. "But it's preseason. On the 25th, things will change."

For Bulls fans salivating for the Bulls' return, this game was like the "Dark Knight Rises" trailer. There is a confidence among the returners from last season, and the addition of the new shooting guard has everyone giddy.

With Hamilton filling the scoring/playmaking combo role Keith Bogans struggled with, the Bulls looked in midseason form offensively, with 30 assists on 39 baskets. Christmas in Los Angeles can't come soon enough.

"With the players we have, we can make the game very easy," said Derrick Rose, who had 12 points, nine assists and five rebounds in 28 minutes. His biggest stat of the night was the $94.8 million maximum contract extension he agreed on with the team, according to sources.

Rose said he would talk more about the extension, which grew thanks to the "Derrick Rose Rule," at the news conference scheduled for 11 a.m. ET Wednesday, but it's not like it was a surprise. Rose has been a max player since his rookie season.

"I'm not thinking about money or anything," he said. "I know if I keep working hard and keep treating people the right way, good things are going to happen to me."

Hamilton's max days are over, but as a $5 million-a-year man, he hasn't lost a hint of confidence. Here's what he said about playing with Rose:

"It was probably the first time I've ever played with a guy who was faster than me," he said. "I'm trying to keep up with him every time he pushed the ball on a break. It was fun and exciting, because you get so many easy baskets running with him."

Besides running the floor like a gazelle, Hamilton showed adroitness in the half-court offense, firing behind-the-back passes on the baseline and even posting up 6-footer Darren Collison.

"I just have to hit open shots now," Rose said of his adjustment to playing with Hamilton.

At halftime, I checked in with Lindsey Hunter, who played with Hamilton in Detroit and finished up with Rose on the Bulls. He was in town in his new job as a scout.

"We talk a few times a week, and he was really excited to come here," Hunter said of Hamilton. "This is a perfect situation for him. He's still in great shape, kind of like how Reggie Miller was."

I asked him whether Hamilton's reputation for flustering guards such as Dwyane Wade was accurate. After all, Hamilton was signed, in part, to help beat the Heat this spring.

"He [ticks] everyone off," Hunter said. "He's just feisty. When we were on Detroit together, he used to guard LeBron."

Hamilton's only real offensive miscue came in the first quarter when he and Rose tried a transition give-and-go ending in a Rose dunk, but Hamilton's lob was off.

Some plays take time. I have a feeling Hamilton will have plenty of chances to practice those lobs. He's ready to run, and so are the Bulls.

Jon Greenberg is a columnist for ESPNChicago.com.