Bulls wait on 'Rip,' should be moving on Howard

While the Bulls wait for word on Richard Hamilton’s latest injury, I have two words for them:

Dwight Howard.

The Bulls waited most of the season for Hamilton to get healthy, and now they’re waiting for that again. Of course they are.

I mean, the only surprise is that the Bulls haven’t found a corporate sponsorship for Hamilton’s aggravatingly regular deal.

Less than 90 seconds into the Bulls’ beating of Indiana on Monday night, Hamilton was out.  Again. Injured. Again. The man called “Rip’’ will have to change his nickname to “HMO.’’

And so, the Bulls are waiting for an answer on the right shoulder of the aging, brittle guard who was supposed to be the answer.

Hamilton was supposed to be the difference between losing to Miami in five games again and getting to the NBA Finals.

Hamilton was the shooting guard who was supposed to be the second scoring option that would make Miami pay for blitzing Derrick Rose or putting LeBron James on the Bulls’ MVP. Hamilton could run the floor as well as Rose, come off screens to pop the jumper, and pass like a point guard.

What’s more, Hamilton was the long-armed defender who could disrupt Dwayne Wade’s game.

And another thing: Hamilton’s presence in the starting lineup gave the Bulls’ rotation order and kept together the best bench in the league.

In theory, anyway. That’s what the Bulls thought they were getting. Instead, they ended up with a 6-foot-7 version of that guy from the board game Operation.

Waiting on Hamilton ought to give the Bulls their best reason to make a move on Howard before the trade deadline nine days away.

This isn’t panic. This is common sense. If you can acquire the best center in the game, you make that deal. See Shaquille O’Neal for details, and you can go back to Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and every top center in between.

Let me repeat this for those who showed up late to class: It’s all about beating Miami. It always has been. That’s why Hamilton was brought in. Even with him, the Bulls still might not be good enough. But without Hamilton, they have no chance because they’re no different than the team that started Keith Bogans.

The Bulls have the NBA’s best record, like last season. The Bulls are above .500 against teams with winning records, like last season. The Bulls cannot stay with the Heat for a playoff series, like last season.

Without the difference that Hamilton was supposed to make, the Bulls are the same team as the one that went out in five games last year. Miami, by the way, is a better, deeper team this season.

How many more reasons do you need to make a move on Howard?

Whatever it takes. Luol Deng? If it makes the deal work. Joakim Noah? Fine. Taj Gibson? Alright. Omer Asik? OK. Carlos Boozer? Ding! Ding! Ding! Jimmy Butler and the Bobcats’ prime draft pick? Here you go. And throw in all the players overseas for whom the Bulls hold rights.

As long as Rose is here, then the deal for Howard works. For me, anyway. It makes the Heat defend in a way they don’t like and don’t execute very well. When James forces the ball out of Rose’s hands, it would go into the dominant low-post game that the Bulls lied about Boozer producing.

I’m dreaming, I know. I can’t see the Bulls tearing up this team that way. What I can see is the Bulls trying to make a small move, such as, I don’t know, just about everything short of acquiring Howard.

As all of you know, I try to be Stevie Sunshine around here. But this is a time for Stevie Sober. The reality is, short of Hamilton’s good health and the miracle of his staying that way, the Bulls’ only hope this spring becomes James’ choking at the end of games four times in two weeks.

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