With Rip Hamilton expected to return from a thigh bruise as soon as in Tuesday night's game with the Hornets, the Bulls are as healthy as they have been all season.
"He's encouraged by how he's feeling but we're not going to rush," Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau said. "We're going to make sure he can get through some practices and not have any problems. The intensity of a practice is still not what a game is. As much as we want to get it as close as possible you can never quite get there. We want to be sure he can handle the contact and be good the next day and do it over a period of time also."
Hamilton has missed 23 games with leg injuries this season but he practiced with the team before the All-Star break and again Monday. Thibodeau said his availability for the Hornets would be a game-time decision.
Thibodeau wants to score more easy baskets in the second half and Hamilton helps in that area.
"It gives you another thing you can go to," Thibodeau said. "Of course, we have the pick-and-roll game and transition with Derrick [Rose]. He gives us a strong catch-and-shoot game. Most teams put two on him. He's an excellent playmaker. You need to have that balance."
The nature of Hamilton's game should allow him to fit in quickly, although Thibodeau will monitor his minutes carefully.
"You won't know that until he gets out there in terms of how many minutes he can handle and how he's feeling," Thibodeau said. "Again the big thing for us is taking it step by step. He did all the noncontact stuff and was good with that. Now he's doing the contact part and he's handled that well. The next step will be to put him in a game and see where he is."