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Thursday, August 18

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Bulls Mon Dec 03 2012

Hamilton's Minor Injury is Butler's Major Break

Bulls_200.pngBulls fans are all suffering from the same hyphen-centric condition: Basketball-Related-Post-Traumatic-Stress-Disorder. It's understandable when you realize they all witnessed their star player, Derrick Rose, tear his ACL and rip up the Bulls title chances until 2014. A symptom of this BRPTSD is the involuntary act of rolling one's eyes to the very back of the head, emitting a distressed guttural sigh at the very sight of a Bulls player hitting the ground and writhing in pain. A feeling of "really, for real, honestly?" overwhelms. Frustrated overreactions quickly turn into emotional avoidance, which all culminates in an overly optimistic "alright next man up, yeah, Nate (Robinson) can take this game over and hit some shots" cries.

On Saturday against the Philadelphia 76ers, who are also without their star player (Andrew Bynum), Rip Hamilton was carried off the court after a non-contact injury, but returned to finish the game on the last play to sink a couple of free throws. An MRI on Sunday revealed he had torn his planter fascia, which should only keep him out of action for two weeks.
Offensively, Hamilton has been a reliable option when points were hard to come by. Defensively speaking, Hamilton is an offensive player. To use an overly muttered Chicago sports cliché "Defense (most likely) wins (the mediocre Central Division) championship."

The Bulls have a fleeting chance to develop depth in the short length of Hamilton's injury. After the front office dismantled the almighty "Bench Mob," coach Thibodeau seems to play is starters in extreme minutes out of spite. With more time to spare at the shooting guard position, Thibodeau is forced into a circumstance where he might finally gain the trust of Marco Belinelli and Jimmy Butler, which may never have organically happened with a healthy Hamilton. It's expected that Belinelli will start and Butler will come off the bench, but in a more vital and expanded role. This is a good thing. The Bulls didn't have a backup point guard they were eventually planning on being the starter when Derrick Rose went down, so there was no one to promote. This move works in both the short term and long. In the event of dropping the ball in free agency this off-season like they did last (missing out available scoring guard OJ Mayo), the Bulls will need Butler to step up if they don't pick up Hamilton's team option.

I am in no way suggesting that Butler takes away Hamilton's minutes even when he's healthy and becomes first chair in Thibodeau's rotational orchestra. The advanced stats suggest that the team is better when Hamilton is on the court compared to Butler and it's not close, but Hamilton has more opportunities. In addition to that, although it's literally oxymoronic to its definition, the aforementioned advanced stats are a bit subjective. Hamilton shoots more often than Butler, all the while having more plays designed for him. Butler primarily fires at the rim when space and time is evanescent, with zero plays being called for him.

Thibodeau is a former coach of the year who's set in his system ways. Last season he had a deep bench, this year it's shallow in both talent and depth. If we're all holding on hope on Rose returning and the team winning the winnable Central Division while going far in the playoffs, the team needs Butler to be playing beyond his potential in this window of vacant playing time. Practice will make perfect. Butler will work for work. Rest and get well soon, Rip, until then Jimmy will be the one actively getting better.

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