CLEVELAND—Veteran Kirk Hinrich, like last season, has assumed the Bulls’ starting point-guard role in Derrick Rose’s absence.
But unlike last season, when Hinrich suffered an assortment of various injuries, there’s no Nate Robinson to back him up. Thus far, that job has fallen to second-year point guard Marquis Teague, who has struggled with both ball security and outside shooting, which has limited his playing time.
There’s no question Hinrich can handle starting duties, but he wasn’t expected to have a heavy workload and if Bulls head coach Tom Thibodeau continues to have a quick trigger with Teague, it wouldn’t be out of the question that the floor general could challenge ironman teammate Luol Deng for the league’s minutes-per-game lead by the end of the campaign.
“Well, we’ll see what he can handle. He looks good right now, he’s got to continue to work and we’ll see,” Thibodeau said. “I thought he had a great training camp. I thought when he was with the second unit, he played great. The value of having a guy like Kirk is he can start, he can come off the bench, he can play the point, he can play the two, he’s very versatile. I think he understands the game. He can provide scoring, he runs the team very, very well—guys get in rhythm—and his defense is outstanding.”
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One would think that if Teague continues to struggle, Thibodeau would turn to the more experienced Mike James, a player he’s familiar with from both their time in Houston together under Jeff Van Gundy and the 38-year-old’s stint with the Bulls back in the 2011-12 season.
“Mike’s a pro and I know he always stays ready. It always works out for him, so he’s into the game, he lives in the gym,” Thibodeau said. “There’s a reason why he’s lasted this long in the league, so you look at what he did last year in Dallas and when he’s played this year for us, he’s played well.”
But when asked about his point-guard rotation, the coach would only say, “We’re going to look at matchups, so we’ll see. See how it unfolds.”
Never one to publicly criticize his players, Thibodeau added about Teague specifically: “He’s got to continue to work. You never have it all figured out. There’s been some ups and downs. We need everyone. We’re looking at our entire roster.
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“We’re seeing some of that,” he continued, referencing any perceptible improvement in the youngster. “But it’s not just one guy, it’s the entire group.”
Given that’s Thibodeau’s general standard—how a unit functions as a whole when a player’s on the court—Teague could maintain his role in the rotation based on how the reserves play collectively, but it also wouldn’t be surprising if Hinrich’s understudy is James in the near future.