Rip Hamilton feels like it’s sweet home Chicago

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Richard Hamilton is feeling comfortable with the Bulls.

Not completely with his teammates yet, that’s a work in progress (albeit one that is making great strides). No, Hamilton is comfortable with the expectations in Chicago — title expectations.

“I love it because this is what it’s supposed to be,” Hamilton said after he had 16 points to help the Bulls knock off the Clippers 114-101 Friday night. “When I was in Detroit, my first seven or eight years, we won every night. It was all about winning. To get the opportunity to get back in that groove, that’s home for me.”

Like those Pistons teams, these Bulls are about defense first.

“I really like the way he is playing defensively,” Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau said. “He’s back to really competing. He’s shown that he can guard point guards….

“Offensively I think he’s starting to get more comfortable. He’s learning his teammates, his teammates are learning him.”

Thibodeau has gone back to his Celtics days to come up with plays for Rip, one of the better midrange shooters in the league. Chicago is running some of the same plays for Rip that Boston runs for Ray Allen.

Hamilton’s not as efficient on offense as he was five years ago, but already you can see where his ability to have plays called for him and to find spaces in the defense where Rose can hit him with a pass is already taking some scoring pressure off the MVP. He’s quickly blending in.

Still, it’s an adjustment.

“I’m getting better, I’m getting better,” Hamilton said. “I’m not where I want to be, but every game I get a little better. Like I said we didn’t have a training camp or anything like that, so every day is a learning adjustment…

“I think guys are learning my game, I’m learning theirs,” Hamilton said.

Quinn Cook signing two-year contract with Hawks

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The Hawks began last season with just two point guards, one fewer than most teams – especially notable because neither starter Dennis Schroder nor backup Malcolm Delaney was experienced for his role.

Schroder and Delaney return, but Atlanta is adding another option – Quinn Cook.

Shams Charania of Yahoo Sports:

Cook is a borderline NBA player. He might not make the regular-season roster. He also might supplant Delaney for a rotation spot.

A 24-year-old who has spent most of the last two years in the D-League (also getting stints with the Mavericks and Pelicans), Cook is a good outside shooter. He’s also steady, if unspectacular, in his lead-guard duties.

This is a solid flier at a position the Hawks could use depth.

Knicks sign Xavier Rathan-Mayes and Jamel Artis

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The Knicks signing Nigel Hayes leaked first.

But New York didn’t stop there.

Knicks release:

The New York Knickerbockers announced today that the team has signed forwards Jamel Artis and Nigel Hayes and guard Xavier Rathan-Mayes.

Like Hayes, Artis (Pittsburgh) and Rathan-Mayes (Florida State) went undrafted this year – making them eligible to be waived and assigned to the Knicks’ minor-league affiliate. That’s likely all three’s fate.

But first, each will have an opportunity to make the regular-season roster. The Knicks have just 14 players with guaranteed salaries, leaving one roster spot for someone on a standard contract. Chasson Randle (unguaranteed) is the incumbent choice, but these three could supplant him.

O.J. Mayo says abusing prescription painkillers triggered NBA ban

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Last year, O.J. Mayo was banned from the NBA for at least two years due to a drug violation. Aside from stating a plan to come back, Mayo didn’t say much publicly.

Until now.

Ben Golliver of Sports Illustrated:

He acknowledged smoking marijuana and abusing a prescription pain medication that triggered his two-year ban because it is on the NBA’s “drugs of abuse” list. (He emphatically denied testing positive for hard drugs like cocaine.)

Mayo also concluded that he had been “overwhelmed” by a string of difficult life events: his father, high school basketball star Kenny Ziegler, was sentenced to more than 10 years in prison for distributing crack cocaine, his brother was placed in juvenile lock-up, a close friend went to jail, and another was killed. “I was bred to play basketball and I thought I could balance everything,” he said. “I couldn’t.”

That’s part of an interesting feature on Mayo, who’s training for his come back. Golliver’s story makes it easy to pull for Mayo.

But the guard will be 30 when he’s eligible to apply for reinstatement, and he played lousily in his last three seasons with the Bucks.

Hopefully, Mayo has and keeps his personal life in order. But returning to the NBA will be an uphill battle.

James Harden throws alley-oop to Chris Paul, pair puts on show at Houston charity event

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What chemistry problem?

There are legitimate questions about how Chris Paul and James Harden will share the backcourt and ball with the Rockets, but none of those were on display on Sunday. That’s when CP3 joined his new teammate in Harden’s charity game (raising money for Harden’s charity, which helps children from single-family homes get a higher education), a kind of pro-am with some names thrown in to draw a crowd.

Harden and CP3 put on a show for the fans.

This is a charity event, not every team is going to defend like this or the Phoenix Suns. It’s going to be harder when the games matter.

But the Rockets are going to be entertaining to watch this season. No doubt.