Wednesday, Dec. 22, 2010
By Aggrey Sam
WASHINGTONIt took a trade of the former face of his new franchise and an injury to the teams star of the future, but Kirk Hinrich is back to playing his natural position of point guard. With Gilbert Arenas now in Orlando and No. 1 pick John Wall sidelined with a knee injury, Captain Kirk is the Wizards primary ballhandlerthe formerly guard-heavy team now lacks capable ballhandlers, forcing them to sign free agent Lester Hudson, whom they waived after the preseasonand hes acquitted himself well, leading Washington to a convincing rout Monday over Charlotte and a frustratingly close loss Saturday to Miami, in which the young team snatched defeat out of the grasp of victory.
It might be a distant memory now, but Hinrich was once of the leagues up-and-coming point guards, highly regarded enough of a floor general to be selected to USA Basketballs 2006 FIBA World Championships team. Then the Bulls drafted Derrick Rose and Hinrich, always a selfless team player and possessing the versatility to slide over to shooting guard, made way for the young superstar.
As a shooting guard, Hinrich is undersized and not a consistent enough shooter or truly offensive-minded enoughas a shooter, although his point-guard instincts lend themselves to the occasional spree of overdribblingto present problems for most opponents as a scoring threat. On the defensive end, which has become his calling card, Hinrich gives his counterparts fits with his quickness and determination, but for most elite shooting guardswho usually possess a size advantagehes more of a pesky defender than a stopper.
As a point guard, while he wasnt on the top-tier level of a Steve Nash or Chauncey Billups, Hinrich, in his heyday, had excellent size for his position, his pass-first nature often created an unselfish team and often paired with Ben Gordon in the backcourt, his defensive talents made up for his backcourt mates shortcomings on that end of the floor with his ability to guard both positions.
Traded to Washington in the offseason to clear further salary-cap space for Chicago, Hinrich was third on the depth chart at his natural position to start the season and actually started his preseason return to the United Center at small forward, back when Wizards coach Flip Saunders was compelled to start games with a college-like three-guard set. He appeared to be clearly out of place with the Wizards, with Wall a jet-quick, shooting-deficient, ball-dominating point guard in the mold of Rose as a rookie and Arenas simply used to playing in a shoot-first, dribble-second, pass-third mode.
Wall will eventually return to the lineupalthough Saunders confirmed at Wednesday mornings shootaround that there was no change with the No. 1 overall pick status for the evenings gamebut for the time being, Hinrich is back to playing the position where he excelled as a high school All-American, a collegiate star at Kansas and the early portion of his Bulls career.
Im more comfortable playing point guard, Hinrich said at the Wednesdays Wizards morning shootaround, in a hallway outside the teams Verizon Center practice court. I feel like I can play both positions, but Im definitely a little more comfortable kind of running the show.
An understatement to say the least, but thats always been Hinrichs way. A Bulls fan since his youth in Iowa, his disappointment at being traded awayto a young, non-contending team, at thatwas palatable, but after so much speculation in recent years that Chicago would move him and his hefty contract out of town, he couldnt have been too taken aback, although if rumored trades to the likes of the Celtics or Lakers would have happened, the move would have been a bit easier to swallow.
Always a professional, Hinrich looked for a silver lining in the recently improved play of his team and claimed his focus is on the present, not the past.
We need to come out with the same mindset, same sense of urgency and go out there and share the ball, help each other on both ends and hopefully we can get a win, said Hinrich. Ive just been trying to kind of focus on us. I havent been paying too much attention to them the Bulls, except for yesterday and today, when were getting ready to play them. But just from what Ive seen, theyre playing hard. Defensively, theyre good. Theyve got some good players and theyre playing well, so its definitely going to be a challenge.
Its not so strange anymore to play against the Bulls. Ive been here for a while now and Im comfortable, so its not as strange as it was earlier in the year.
Being back in a familiar role certainly makes that easier.
Aggrey Sam is CSNChicago.com's Bulls Insider. Follow him @CSNBullsInsider on Twitter for up-to-the-minute Bulls information and his take on the team, the NBA and much more.