CHICAGO — Veteran Chicago Bulls swingman Richard Hamilton, known equally for his constant motion, crafty scoring ability and in-game accessories (head band, protective fiberglass mask), might want to go with a brown paper bag these days.
As in, who he?
From 2003-09, Hamilton was one of the playoffs’ most familiar faces, packing in 120 appearances in seven seasons with the Detroit Pistons. Over the next three postseasons, he played in just six games, all with Chicago last spring. But now his involvement has dropped off the table entirely.
In Game 1 of the Bulls’ first-round series against the Brooklyn Nets, Hamilton came off the bench in a playoff game for the first time ever. He went scoreless in 7:14, which led to another personal first: Hamilton didn’t play at all in Game 2, picking up his first postseason DNP-CD.
Now he appears to be out of coach Tom Thibodeau‘s postseason rotation entirely. With minutes at a premium and the Bulls in need of scoring wherever they can find it, Thibodeau has turned to Marco Belinelli in reserve of newfound starter Jimmy Butler. In a total of 30 minutes in the two games so far, Belinelli has scored 21 points while shooting 7-for-15.
Thibodeau also has used Nate Robinson in tandem with point guard Kirk Hinrich, rather than strictly as a backup, also draining minutes that might have gone to Hamilton.
“He missed a good chunk of the season down the stretch, and then we tried to get him some games at the end just so he can get his rhythm back,” the Bulls coach said the other day.
That never really happened. After missing March with a bad back, Hamilton returned April 9 but averaged only 5.8 points in 15.8 minutes while shooting 41.9 percent in five final regular-season appearances.
Thus Hamilton’s two-season stay with the Bulls appears to be fading to black. Oh, he might be called upon here or three, particularly if Chicago advances, but this wasn’t what any of them had in mind when Hamilton signed a three-year, $15 million contract after the lockout in December 2011.
The vision then called for him to team in the Bulls’ backcourt with Derrick Rose, benefiting in late career from the defensive attention Rose drew on penetrations into the lane while simultaneously spreading the floor for the dynamic point guard. Chicago had made it to the Eastern Conference finals with defensive-oriented Keith Bogans alongside Rose, but it was clear it needed someone to share the scoring load.
How’d that work out for the Bulls? Due to injuries to one or both, Hamilton and Rose played a total of 18 games together in two seasons, sharing the backcourt for only 396 minutes. Spread across the possible 148 games in 2011-12 and 2012-13, that’s the equivalent of 2.7 minutes per game.
That’s about right, in terms of impact. Hamilton was unable to stay healthy through a series of ailments, missing 38 games last season and 32 this year. Rose missed 27 a year ago and, of course, hasn’t suited up since his ACL injury in the 2012 playoff opener. (He and Hamilton combined for 42 points that afternoon, a tease of what might have been).
Good idea that never got traction? More like a dice roll that didn’t pan out. Hamilton had limited game and no durability left by the time the Bulls signed him off Detroit’s amnesty. He scored 20 points or more five times in 2011-12 and four this season, but wasn’t around enough to consistently boost the Bulls’ attack. He has a $1 million guarantee for next season, which almost certainly will become his severance check so the Bulls can avoid the other $4 million for 2013-14.
It’s worth looking at Hamilton’s impact in another way, given Chicago’s focus on dollars expended. Hamilton, in two regular seasons, scored a total of 816 points for $10 million. That’s $12,255 per point. Bogans — working against the Bulls from the Brooklyn bench — started all 82 games in his one season with them, scored 359 points and was paid $1.6 million. That’s $4,457 per point.