CHICAGO (AP) — Richard Hamilton is returning to Chicago's rotation after missing more than a month because of a back injury, while Bulls center Joakim Noah will miss Tuesday night's game against Toronto because of plantar fasciitis in his right foot.
The news about Hamilton was a surprise, considering Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau had said at the shootaround that the veteran guard would remain sidelined. Instead, Hamilton was available for the first time since Feb. 26 after missing 19 straight games.
"He's been down for a while now," Thibodeau said in his pregame media session. "His back's calmed down. He's been running for a while. He's been shooting for a while. Now, he's doing everything in practice so the next step is to play so we'll see where he is. He's been out a long time so there's going to be some rust. He's an excellent playmaker so he has the ability to make other people better."
Thibodeau said Luol Deng will miss his second straight game because of a sore hip, while Taj Gibson (sprained left knee) will miss his fourth in a row and Derrick Rose (left knee) remains out. Marco Belinelli, who returned against Detroit on Sunday after missing seven games with an abdominal strain, was expected to play.
Thibodeau said Gibson is "a lot better" and that Deng is improving, but Noah "is the tricky one."
He played Sunday against the Pistons after sitting out eight games, but Thibodeau said the foot stiffened afterward. Noah sat out practice Monday after it worsened and got a cortisone shot.
"You don't want him out there if he's injured," Thibodeau said. "The time that he was out, he put a lot of time into his rehab. He's somewhat discouraged, but he can't be discouraged. He has to just keep doing what he's doing, and hopefully, he'll be ready to go before the end of the season."
Noah's injury is a major concern for a team that's fighting for playoff positioning. The Bulls entered Tuesday's game fifth in the Eastern Conference, a game ahead of Atlanta and two behind Brooklyn for the fourth seed and home-court advantage in the first round of the playoffs.
"We fought really hard all year and gone through a lot of adversity," Noah said. "I just want to be out there for my teammates. Even though it's tough, I feel like I'll be back when it gets hot."
As for Rose, his return this season from a torn anterior cruciate ligament remains up in the air. Thibodeau dismissed the idea that there's a rift between the Bulls and Rose's camp, saying chairman Jerry Reinsdorf was adamant right from the start that the star guard would not rush back.
"We've made it clear that we don't want him out there unless he's comfortable," Thibodeau said. "So I think he understands that. He's done his part. We have to do what's right. I think we are."