DEERFIELD, Ill. - Now that Derrick Rose is out for the rest of the playoffs with a torn anterior cruciate ligament in his left knee, most of the attention in Chicago is on point guards C.J. Watson and John Lucas III, who have been forced into much larger roles.
The Bulls, however, expect the most in the backcourt from Richard "Rip" Hamilton.
After nine years in Detroit, in which he averaged more than 20 points in 120 playoff games, the Coatesville native signed a two-year deal in December with Chicago, which leads its Eastern Conference playoff series with the 76ers after one game.
The Bulls will look to Hamilton to help pick up the scoring slack and lend his veteran experience to the team. Game 2 is Tuesday night at the United Center.
Hamilton, 34, finished with 19 points on 6-for-7 shooting in Chicago's 103-91 Game 1 win Saturday. He made all six of his free throws, grabbed three rebounds, and also handed out four assists. His hot shooting - especially in the first quarter when he scored 11 points - forced Sixers coach Doug Collins to quit on shooting guard Jodie Meeks early and start the bigger Evan Turner in the second half against the 6-foot-7 Hamilton in hopes of slowing him down.
"It's great to be in this situation, to get another chance to pursue another championship with another organization," said Hamilton, who won a championship with Detroit in 2004. "This is what you want to be doing in your career - competing at the highest level."
Hamilton is in Chicago after the Pistons bought out his contract in December, allowing him to become an unrestricted free agent. It didn't take long for the Bulls to sign him.
"He's so good at moving without the ball, so good at playmaking," coach Tom Thibodeau said Monday at the Bulls' suburban Chicago practice facility.
Nagging injuries to Hamilton's shoulder, thigh, and groin limited him to 28 regular-season appearances, all starts. And the 11.6 points he averaged this season were his lowest since he averaged 9.0 as a rookie with Washington in the 1999-2000 season.
Now that Rose is finished, Hamilton recognizes that his role will be expanded.
"This is the time," he said. "It's all or nothing. Win or shut up. That always excites me."
There has been no more hotly debated issue in Chicago than why Thibodeau still had Rose on the floor with the Bulls leading by 12 points with 90 seconds remaining.
Thibodeau defended himself by saying that he was still not comfortable that the game was secured. Right or not, a number of coaches – including Collins – have defended his decision.
Shortly after Rose suffered his injury, former Sixer Kyle Korver posted a message to his Facebook page telling fans that the Bulls needed their support more than ever with Rose out. The Chicago Tribune reprinted the post on the front page of the Sunday paper.
"I was surprised at how many people read it and commented," Korver said Monday. "When things are tough, that's when a lot of good can happen in life. Hopefully, something good can come out of this for Derrick, the team, and the city of Chicago."
Korver, who began his NBA career with the Sixers in 2003, said there is no additional motivation attached to this series just because he was once a Sixer.
"Man, the playoffs is the best basketball," he said. "It's the best. So it doesn't matter who you are playing."