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Rip Almost Ready to Return to Bulls

He's been limited to 11 appearances because of thigh and groin problems

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    Chicago Bulls guard Richard Hamilton (32) looks to a pass as Charlotte Bobcats guard Kemba Walker (1) defends during the first quarter of an NBA basketball game in Chicago on Saturday, Jan. 21, 2012. (AP Photo/Nam Y. Huh)

    Veteran Richard Hamilton appears close to returning to the Chicago Bulls' lineup.

    Coach Tom Thibodeau stopped short of declaring him ready Monday, although Hamilton has taken contact in practice. The Bulls play New Orleans on Tuesday.

    Hamilton, who has not played since Jan. 29, has been limited to 11 appearances because of thigh and groin problems.

    Backup guard C.J. Watson has been cleared to play after missing the past two games because of a mild concussion. Also, Derrick Rose says his back felt so good that he didn't get treatment during the All-Star break, and Luol Deng says he's fine after falling on his injured left wrist during Sunday's game. He also says he hasn't heard from the league about wearing a T-shirt with an outline of Africa during introductions.