With players nearing return and a surprisingly strong start, there are plenty of reasons for the Chicago Bulls to be cheerful this holiday season.
Tom Thibodeau's squad heads into its Christmas Day game against the Houston Rockets at 15-11 and well inside the Eastern Conference playoff picture.
Even more exciting is the upcoming return of star players. Though Derrick Rose is yet to return from an ACL tear, he's making progress and there is more information coming out about when he'll hit the United Center floor every day.
And Rose isn't the only one hearing good news. With that in mind, let's take a look at all the latest news and updates going on in the Windy City.
Thibodeau Hoping Rose Returns for Second Half of Season
While the Bulls are still keeping the ship afloat, they are undoubtedly marking off the days until their superstar point guard returns from injury. Rose has been out since Game 1 of Chicago's first-round series against the 76ers last season due to an ACL tear and still hasn't done anything with contact yet.
Nevertheless, the Bulls Coach has some encouraging news on when he may be back, according to ESPN Chicago:
He's doing a lot, but he hasn't done anything with contact. So we're going to go step by step. First he has to get into practice and he has to practice well for a while. And then we'll move on from there. Hopefully at some point during the second half of the season he'll rejoin us.
It pretty much goes without saying that Rose cannot return soon enough. Though the last thing the Bulls want to do is rush him, it's become pretty apparent that Kirk Hinrich's days as an NBA starting point guard are behind him.
If Rose gets back and starts hitting his apex of peak condition by April, the Bulls may wind up being the most dangerous low seed in recent memory.
Nate Robinson Not Worried About Non-Guaranteed Contract
Rose's return will undoubtedly be a welcomed addition to the Bulls, but it may not be to Nate Robinson's checkbook. The spry guard is under contract for $1.2 million for this season, but it is non-guaranteed if Chicago releases him by Jan. 10.
With Marquis Teague emerging as a solid performer and Rose's impending return holding everyone hostage, the backcourt is starting to get awfully crowded. When asked about the possibility of a release, Robinson seemed to be in the holiday spirit, according to the Chicago Tribune's K.C. Johnson:
Life is not guaranteed. Look at all the tragedy that is happening in the world now. If I get the guarantee, I'll be happy. If not, I'll keep pushing and won't drop my head. I'll keep working hard and continue to be the player I am. It's been awesome here.
This is pretty much in line with everything we know about Robinson. Dating back to the "Kryptonate" days, he's always been an upbeat, fun-loving style of player and person. And while he's obviously got his fair set of deficiencies, Robinson is has been a solid contributor off the bench this season.
Nevertheless, the prospect of having his contract come off the books and clear up a roster spot might be too much for Bulls management to pass up.
Richard Hamilton's Status Improving
Absent in the last 11 games for the Bulls, shooting guard Richard Hamilton is finally starting to feel better. The 34-year-old veteran tore his plantar fascia in his foot in early December and has been on the mend ever since.
According to the Chicago Tribune's K.C. Johnson, Thibodeau said that Hamilton was back participating somewhat in practice and running:
He’s running. Each day, he’s doing more shooting. He’s going through all the offense now, did some defense (Monday). He’s feeling pretty good. I want him to get through a few practices first where there’s no discomfort the next day. But he did a lot more than he has in the past.
Although that's good news, one has to wonder whether Hamilton will still have a starting job once he returns. Marco Belinelli has excelled during Rip's absence and it's been no secret that the Bulls have explored trading Hamilton in the past.
Regardless, after having such a dearth of guard help all season long, it seems like Chicago may finally be getting a surplus in the backcourt. It may not work out to everyone's liking, but that's something Bulls fans should be happy about.