Following the departure of 39-year-old Kurt Thomas, the Bulls signed a veteran who can now assume the role of the “old man” on the team: Rip Hamilton.

Uncertainty surrounded Keith Bogans and Ronnie Brewer as potential starters. The more serious issue is that with the departure of Thomas, the oldest player on the current roster would have been Brian Scalabrine. Certain Bulls players last season were reported to have forgotten Scalabrine was even on the team and confused him for an assistant coach or a scout. That’s not a promising quality for a player expected to be the elder statesman of a team challenging for top honors in the East.

Hamilton’s numbers across the board last season were primarily lower than his career averages. He’s undoubtedly in the twilight of his career. Coach Tom Thibodeau still thinks he has a use for the former Piston.

“He defends and hits the mid-range jumper,” said Thibodeau. “Even more important than that, he drives his kids around in a minivan. Young players on our squad can learn from that.”

Despite the dip in his performance and his age, Hamilton was reluctant to view himself as an older role player. A meeting with the Bulls coaching staffed eased his mind on the idea.

“I guess the day just came a lot sooner than I expected,” an almost stunned Hamilton stated. “Now I have all these young players that I’m responsible for teaching and being a good role model to.”

John Jenzeh