(WSCR) Early in Monday night’s game, Rip Hamilton again went down with an injury.

Hamilton, who was signed this offseason to be the final piece of the Bulls’ puzzle, has played in just 17 games this season. Now, a shoulder injury threatens more games for the 34-year-old, and the Bulls may be forced to make a trade before the March 15 deadline.

“That’s the big question,” K.C. Johnson of the Chicago Tribune told The Mully and Hanley Show. “Obviously, I don’t have an answer, but we can all speculate. To me, the worst-case scenario would be a separated shoulder. That’s probably the fear that is out there because of the way he was holding it. Teammates said he was in a lot of pain afterward. He wasn’t even able to really lift his arm. It sounded like they immobilized his arm and they’ll have more tests today. If it’s a separated shoulder, that could be awhile.”

LISTEN: K.C. Johnson on The Mully and Hanley Show

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The race to the NBA Finals in the Eastern Conference will almost certainly go through Miami. Without Hamilton, the Bulls may once again fall to the Heat, unless a deal can be made.

“He was added to be the piece and to challenge Miami,” Johnson said. “I certainly think you need to look at (a possible trade) more. I guarantee if Rip had not gotten hurt last night, not guarantee but 99 percent sure, that they were going to keep this roster as is. They like the chemistry. They thought Rip was coming back at the right time to give themselves something for the stretch run. Now, you seriously have to look at it. Without Rip, I know Ronnie Brewer has played well, but I don’t think that team beats Miami.”

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