Chicago Bulls: Rip Hamilton Shows Importance in Victory over Hornets

Michael GibbonsCorrespondent IIFebruary 29, 2012

CHICAGO, IL - FEBRUARY 28: Richard Hamilton #32 of the Chicago Bulls passes the ball for an assist against the New Orleans Hornets at the United Center on February 28, 2012 in Chicago, Illinois. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)
Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

He may have only played 17 minutes, but in those 17 minutes Rip Hamilton made a big impact.

While his impact can’t be judged by the box score it was clear to see on the court.

During his limited playing time on Tuesday Hamilton was a plus-11, which means the Bulls outscored the Hornets by 11 points while he was on the court. The Bulls led by nine when he left with 3:36 left in the first but were up only four at the end of the quarter.

In the third quarter he was able to help bring the Bulls back from a three-point deficit. It wasn't just a coincidence that the Bulls outscored the Hornets in only the first and third quarter, which were the only quarters Hamilton played in.

So while his five points and five assists might not seem like they made an impact, it is clear to see they did.

With the win the Bulls have improved to 9-3 with Hamilton in the lineup. In those 12 games he has been in the positive in eight while being a negative or even in the other four. No surprise that both the negative games came in losses.

The game marked only the fifth time this season the Bulls had a completely healthy roster. The last time they were completely healthy was Dec. 30 against the Clippers and the last time the starting five was intact was Jan. 4 against Detroit.

In those five games the Bulls are 4-1 with their only loss coming to Golden State in the second game of the season.

I have heard a lot of people say the Bulls don't have enough to surpass the Heat, but I find it hard to understand how anyone can say that if you have had the chance to see how well they play with Hamilton in the lineup.

He seems to make a point of creating easy opportunities for both Carlos Boozer and Joakim Noah down low as well as taking the pressure off Derrick Rose early on in games.

Based on his playing time it is clear Tom Thibodeau and the coaching staff have a plan to slowly bring Hamilton back into the lineup. He basically left the first and third quarter at the same time getting about 8.5 minutes in each.

They want to make sure there are no more setbacks in him returning to the lineup fully. It is clear they don't want a repeat of what happened after the Detroit or Miami games where he was out of the lineup for an extended period of time.

In the coming weeks it should be a lot of fun to see this team come together and if it's able to stay healthy and fully integrate Hamilton into the lineup.

So what do you think, is Hamilton enough to push the Bulls past the Heat or do they still need more?

Sound off below.

Make sure to follow me on Twitter @dachicagofan, and check out my weekly Bulls podcast every Wednesday on my site, The MG Experience.