As Richard Hamilton and the Chicago Bulls put the finishing touches on a contract, Derrick Rose couldn’t stop beaming Wednesday night.
”With him, I’m going to have a lot more assists this year,” the star point guard said.
The Bulls made it official Wednesday night, announcing they’d signed Hamilton to boost a backcourt that already included Rose, the league’s MVP.
Terms weren’t released, but a person familiar with the situation said earlier in the day it’s a three-year, $15 million deal. The person spoke on the condition of anonymity because the contract hadn’t been finalized.
The Chicago Tribune, citing sources, reported the team holds an option for the third year. If the Bulls don’t exercise it, he receives some partial guarantees.
Either way, Hamilton is officially a member of the Bulls.
”We are excited to welcome a player, and person, with the credentials of Richard Hamilton to our organization,” general manager Gar Forman said in a statement. ”Rip has been a winner at every level. His resume speaks for itself, and we are confident that he will be an excellent fit with our team, both on and off the floor.”
The three-time All-Star cleared waivers as expected after being bought out by Detroit this week, ending a nine-year run in which the Pistons won a championship and regularly made it to the Eastern Conference finals.
The 6-foot-7 Hamilton gives Chicago another scoring option along with the height it was seeking in the backcourt.
Hamilton was due to make $19 million guaranteed over the final two years of his contract in Detroit, but was bought out for $11 million, saving the rebuilding team $4 million in cap space this year and $4 million more next season.
Entering his 13th year in the league, he joins a team that led the NBA with 62 wins last season and advanced to the conference finals before losing to Miami.
The Bulls are looking for more.
With Rose and one of the league’s deepest rosters, they believed they were in position to make another big run whether they added a shooting guard or not. Hamilton should help take some of the scoring load off Rose, but he is also coming off a difficult season at age 33. He and some of his teammates clashed with former Pistons coach John Kuester, and he averaged just 14.1 points per game, his lowest since his rookie season.
The Pistons had planned to reload with Hamilton when they traded Chauncey Billups to Denver in 2008, but they’ve been struggling ever since.
During the good times, though, Hamilton was one of the best players on a team that reached at least the conference finals six straight years and captured an NBA title in 2004. He’s averaged 17.7 points in a career that started in 1999 with Washington and flourished in Detroit after being acquired in a trade for Jerry Stackhouse.
”It’s going to open up everybody’s game,” Rose said. ”With me working on my three-point shooting, me kicking to him, him kicking it back to me, me making it to the corner, to Lu (Luol Deng), him making shots — I think it’s going to open up everyone’s game. Everybody’s going to have open shots.”
Relentlessly running around screens to set up his mid-range jump shots, Hamilton averaged more than 20 points over 120 playoff games with the Pistons and led them in scoring in eight of his nine regular seasons there.
He is one of four active players — Dirk Nowitzki, Kobe Bryant and Tim Duncan are the others — and 20 in NBA history who have averaged at least 20 points over 120 postseason games, according to Stats LLC.
Bulls players have praised Hamilton in recent days. Joakim Noah also went out of his way to compliment Ronnie Brewer on Wednesday.
”I think (Hamilton) would be a great addition to our team,” Noah said. ”He’s obviously a hell of a player, but Ronnie’s been having a great camp right now.”
Hamilton will have to be a quick study, as will anyone else the Bulls add.
Chicago opens the season against the Lakers in Los Angeles on Dec. 25, and they only have two preseason games to get ready — at Indiana on Friday and at home against the Pacers next Tuesday.
If Hamilton practices Thursday, would the Bulls use him right away?
”If we sign a player and he’s ready to go, yeah,” coach Tom Thibodeau said, before the announcement was made. ”Just like everyone else, we’ll evaluate him once he’s here. We’ll see what he can do, and then we’ll move forward.”
Could a newcomer play Friday?
”You can’t answer that until you see him,” Thibodeau said. ”It’s similar, if you sign somebody now, to making a trade. The thing that’s different is you’re coming out of the offseason and you don’t know where guys are conditioning-wise, but we’ll see.”
Thibodeau did concede that veterans ”pick up things a lot quicker,” and Deng thinks Hamilton will have no trouble getting acclimated quickly. He said the Bulls’ sets are similar to Detroit’s, and Rose’s ability to set up teammates should make things easier for Hamilton.
Deng said, ”You can sense everyone is excited for him to be here.”
But he also cautioned: ”You name any big-name player and you fit him to any team, it always sounds great. It’s up to us to spend a lot of time together and make it work. Having a lot of guys coming back from last year, I think it’s going to help out a lot.”