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Bulls have options with Hamilton out

(MCT) — CHICAGO — With Richard Hamilton sidelined by a torn plantar fascia in his left foot, the Bulls won’t feature a revolving door at shooting guard.

But coach Tom Thibodeau will stonewall anyone looking for the new starter’s identity until he is forced to reveal it.

While emphasizing he would like to settle into a consistent rotation, Thibodeau said he’s keeping his options open in advance of Tuesday’s home game against the Pacers. Marco Belinelli and Jimmy Butler are the likeliest possibilities, although Thibodeau said he hasn’t ruled out moving over Kirk Hinrich, with Nate Robinson presumably starting at point guard.

For what it’s worth, Butler wore the same-colored practice jersey as the other starters Monday and took reps with that unit.

“I feel whether I start or come off the bench, my job is to bring energy, defend and hit an open shot,” Butler said.

Butler has yet to start an NBA game and has developed a nice pattern of teaming with Taj Gibson to provide defensive prowess off the bench.

“I like being that spark off the bench,” Butler said. “That gives me energy. Running out there with Taj and seeing the hustle plays he makes, I want to do that.”

Belinelli has started 148 career games but fell out of the rotation briefly for defensive issues before averaging close to 14 minutes in the last two games.

“His team defense is very good, continues to improve,” Thibodeau said. “He’s putting a lot of effort into it. He has experience. He knows his opponent well.”

Regardless of who starts, depth will be critical this week as the Bulls begin their first stretch of four games in five nights. They have navigated just one set of back-to-back games, going 1-1.

“We’re going to do what’s best for the team and gives us the best chance to win,” Thibodeau said. “Everyone we have has played well at one time or another. I feel good about that position. Marco has started a lot of games before. Jimmy has played terrific all season. And we have some flexibility where Kirk can go to (shooting guard). We’ll be fine.

“The value of Kirk is he can defend three positions. He’s a great defensive player.”

Hamilton declined to address reporters, but Thibodeau said the veteran was in good spirits and rode a stationary bicycle during practice.

“He has some soreness, but he’ll be fine,” Thibodeau said. “He’s had a number of different injuries, so he understands what he has to go through to get back. It could be a week. It could be two weeks. It could be longer. Once he feels good enough to play, he’ll be back.”

The Bulls have discussed signing a 14th player, but none of the possibilities is a difference-maker and any would be behind Belinelli and Butler in the rotation.

“We’re still going to run our stuff,” Hinrich said. “Obviously, they’re a little different than Rip. Either one of them would fill in nicely. We’re lucky to have guys like that who can step up.”

Derrick Rose ran sprints after practice while drawing encouragement from teammates.

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