The Richard Hamilton trade rumors were given their last rites this week.
That doesn’t mean Bulls general manager Gar Forman won’t take calls, but he sure doesn’t sound like he’s making them.
“No, no, Rip is a big part of what we’re doing,’’ Forman said when asked about the validity of all the Hamilton talk. “I think Rip’s been really good.’’
He also has been really popular in trade scenarios, with the latest rumor linking him to the Phoenix Suns.
One problem with those rumors: Coach Tom Thibodeau isn’t looking to stand in the way of management’s decisions, but there’s enough of a relationship between him and the front office that the head chef is at least allowed to have some say in what he’s cooking.
Thibodeau thinks Hamilton’s presence in the second half of the season, as well as the playoffs, will be huge from a leadership standpoint. That’s why he has gone out of his way to make sure Hamilton, 34, was on a minutes watch during the first part of the season, trying to keep him between 20 and 25 per game.
If Hamilton’s future was in doubt or if they were looking to move him, minutes wouldn’t be such an issue.
“It’s veteran leadership,’’ Thibodeau said when asked why Hamilton was important for the Bulls’ 2012-13 plans. “Rip has played extremely well for us when he’s been out there, and the big thing is just him enduring the injuries and us having to do what we can to keep him out there. I have to keep a close eye on the minutes. I don’t want him to be in and out of the lineup like what happened to us last year.’’
Thibodeau knows the lineup is better with Hamilton. He already has missed almost a month with a torn plantar fascia in his left foot, but since his return on Dec. 29, the Bulls are 5-1.
Forman said the idea that the Bulls need to shed salary by dumping the rest of the $5 million Hamilton will make this season to stay under the hard cap isn’t accurate. As a matter of fact, Forman said they have room to add a player — albeit on the cheap — if need be.
That’s why the line of communication will stay open between Thibodeau and management.
“Management’s job is they always have to look at all options,’’ Thibodeau said. “Hey, look, if something came along that would significantly change our team, they would consider it.
“They have to look at everything; that’s what their job is. But we’ve been very pleased with the job [Hamilton] has done. We’re thinking about him being here, and that’s why we’re handling him like this. We want to do what’s best for the team and what gives us our best chance of winning.’’
The Bulls have a $5 million team option on Hamilton for next season, and they likely will pass on that. But, for now, Hamilton is staying put.