The Masked Rip Rides Again, But When?

AP Photo/DayLifeRichard Hamilton has been well known for wearing his mask with the headband firmly draped across it to hold it in place. The Chicago Bulls have not been well known as a team friendly to headbands. The team has had a policy banning the head bands unless medically required for a while now. Remember even Scott Skiles benched Ben Wallace for wearing his head band during a game in violation of the team rule.

So who blinks first between Hamilton and the Bulls? Nobody. Because Tom Thibodeau is not as draconian as his predecessors and seems to be easing up on the head band and accessory restrictions the team previously had in place.

Even though Hamilton does not really need to wear the mask anymore — originally it was to protect a repeatedly broken nose in 2003 but Hamilton has worn the mask ever since out of comfort — the Bulls are not prepared to stand in the way of their recent shooting guard acquisition. He has permission to once again don the mask and headband to secure it, K.C. Johnson of the Chicago Tribune reports. No word yet if other Bulls can follow suit.

“The past is the past,” Thibodeau said of the Bulls’ policy. “This is now. I’m comfortable with the mask too. If it helps him shoot, I’m all for it.”

“That’s like my cape,” Hamilton said of his mask and headband. “I can’t play without it.”

The mask is not the thing keeping him from playing at the moment. Thibodeau tells Neil Hayes of the Chicago Sun-Times he is unsure if Hamilton will play in Tuesday’s preseason finale against Indiana or even if Hamilton will be ready to play for the New Years’ Day home opener against Memphis. Teammates said they believe Hamilton is a good fit for the roster, but that fit won’t matter much if he is unable to get on the court. It does not appear to be an injury slowing him down, just learning the new schemes and responsibilities that come with signing for a new team.

Hamilton certainly will need his cape to draw power after a down year last season in Detroit. He averaged only 14.1 points per game, the lowest since his rookie year, and shot 42.9 percent from the floor. He shot 40.9 percent from the floor in 2010, the two lowest back-to-back years of his career. Hamilton certainly seems on the down slope for the moment.

And of course, Hamilton battled injuries, playing in only 55 games after 46 the previous year, and adjusting to a new role off the bench, starting 39 games, last year which partially explains the downturn.

But after spending nine seasons in Detroit, maybe some new scenery is what the former All Star needs to get back on track. Hamilton is the kind of slashing player who can spread the floor with his improved 3-point shooting and strong play off screens that could fit very nicely around Derrick Rose. Just imagine the flare screens and back doors the Bulls could run on the weak side while Rose is hurling himself into the paint.

It is a big upgrade over Keith Bogans at the very least. Mask or not.

About Philip Rossman-Reich

Philip Rossman-Reich is the managing editor for Crossover Chronicles and Orlando Magic Daily. You can follow him on twitter @OMagicDaily