In a move surprising few but angering many, Rip Hamilton returned from injury to reclaim his starting spot over Marco Belinelli.
The good news
Though playing sparingly due to a minutes cap placed on him by Tom Thibodeau, Rip Hamilton played reasonably effectively. He certainly wasn't afraid to get the ball up, firing five shots in his first five minutes or so on the floor. He shot four of nine, but also missed an array of wide open mid range shots.
He looked like he was moving well though, and if the Bulls are looking to trade him by the deadline for salary relief then they'll likely need to get him some quality run under his belt prior to that point.
Of course, trading Rip Hamilton for salary relief just lowers the Bulls already small chance of winning a title this season, so I'm not particularly rooting for it, though it'd certainly give me plenty of blog fodder for awhile.
Meanwhile, Marco Belinelli was moved back to the bench, and he still played well shooting 7/16 for 17 points. There was some concern that Belinelli might struggle in the bench role because he struggled earlier with that role, but it looks more like he was struggling with confidence than the role.
How important is the starting role?
Now it certainly isn't important who starts relative to minutes played and who finishes. However, the starter has a massive advantage in terms of getting minutes and being ready to finish. When coming in as a reserve (say at the 8 minute mark in the 1st and 3rd), the most minutes you can play is 32 if you play two consecutive stretches of 16 minutes straight.
You're much fresher and more well rested if you are the starter and play the first eight minutes of the 1st/3rd and the last eight of the 2nd/4th which probably increases performance at least somewhat. Granted I don't think conditioning will play a large role either way.
While Belinelli has earned the starters advantage by playing better than Rip Hamilton ever has as a Chicago Bull, if the Bulls are shopping Rip their decision makes sense. However, it strikes me as highly unlikely that management has directed Thibodeau to start Rip in order to shop him.
If the Bulls can't trade Rip this problem gets much bigger
So let's assume for the sake of argument that we're in late February, we've re-established Rip as the starter and are unable to move him at the deadline. Derrick Rose returns after the all-star break.
Who's playing SG now?
Maybe for a little while Derrick Rose played 15 minutes a night and things are still fairly simple to figure out. However, we make it to mid-march, Rose goes Adrian Peterson on the league and demands to the coach play me like I've never been injured. I've been popping HGH like they're M&Ms and they reattached my ACL with that liquid metal stuff from terminator 2.
At some point, Rose's minutes go up to say 35 a game. Kirk Hinrich only has 13 minutes at back up PG which would be better served to give to Nate Robinson [whose minutes of course undeservingly go to zero], but of course we won't because of the money owed. On top of that, there will be a feeling that 13 minutes a night isn't enough to fully absorb the 10 PER experience.
He'll have to get some time in at the SG position which will now be more crowded as Rip will be off his minute restriction and also likely looking to play more than 15 minutes a night (which he's already said his body's ready for more minutes).
All of a sudden it's easy to see Belinelli gets squeezed significantly in terms of minutes at which point his confidence likely drops and his performance begins to dip. So now, we've taken the best guy to start next to Rose (can help relieve ball handling duties, create, drive, and shoot threes) minimized his minutes with Derrick, undermined his confidence, and minimized his role.
Belinelli would be only the second SG to play next to Rose that could do both those things [the other being Ben Gordon]. The Bulls would benefit from this tremendously, but they won't. Thibodeau will be too stubborn to adjust and do the right thing.
This is really why starting Hamilton now is a critical mistake, because it sets up the much larger mistake later. Sure, it's possible that the Bulls could start him until the trade deadline and then bench him for Marco after Rose gets back, but it won't happen that way.
But hey, Rip Hamilton has earned this loyalty by never in his entire Bulls career playing as well as Belinelli has as a starter, so of course the whole thing makes sense (the Bogans kind).
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