Athletes are used to dealing with injuries but a concurrent crisis off the floor is something most are emotionally unprepared for.
Rip Hamilton, who has missed 13 straight games and only played in 11 of the Bulls' 35 games this season as a result of leg injuries, dealt with the death of his grandmother prior to the All-Star Break.
It added to the emotional stress an injury can cause.
"Everybody around you is emotional and you look for basketball to be your out where you can just relieve frustration and just put all that energy into the game," Hamilton said. "When you don't have that, it's hard."
Hamilton signed with the Bulls this offseason in an effort to bolster a two-guard position which was bereft of scoring last season. He is averaging 14.2 points this season, but was at his highest comfort level with the team in the games leading up to the injury.
He had his top-three scoring outputs of the season in the three straight games prior to sitting out a Jan. 27 game against Milwaukee with his latest thigh injury. He attempted to come back the next game against Indiana, but re-aggravated the injury. Hamilton has sat out the 13 game since then.
It was the second time Hamilton came back too soon after an injury this season. He injured his hamstring in the fifth game of the season against the Clippers, sat out two games and came back in Detroit where he re-aggravated the injury. He then sat out eight straight games before coming back. Hamilton has not played more than five straight games for the Bulls this season.
Hamilton is a game-time decision tonight against the New Orleans Hornets at the United Center.
"He's doing well," Tom Thibodeau said. "So he's had a couple of good practices before the break. Had a good practice yesterday. In shoot around he was good. But we want to make sure that he is completely and ready to go. So we'll see tonight. Let him warm up and see where he is."
Re-aggravating the injury won't be the only concern when Hamilton returns. His game is predicated on constant movement featuring hard cuts and curls.
Though Thibodeau has been happy with his practice recent practice efforts, the Bulls' coach won't really know if Hamilton is in game shape until he plays.
When Hamilton does come back his minutes will be determined on a game-by-game basis.
"I do a lot of running, a lot of cutting, a lot of stop-and-gos. So, my legs are everything to me--especially with running," Hamilton said. "I've built my game off conditioning and coming off curls and things like that. So it's very important."