COMMENTARY | Chicago Bulls fans love Kirk Hinrich. Rightfully so, considering that he made himself so easy to love. Taken 7th overall by the Bulls in 2003, Hinrich was one of the more low maintenance athletes in a class that included LeBron James, Dwyane Wade, Carmelo Anthony and Chris Bosh. And as if it is justification for his being selected at such a high draft position, none of the players chosen in the first round after Hinrich, except maybe David West of the Indiana Pacers, have had a more productive NBA career. This was a historically special draft, and he was one of the reasons why.
Hinrich is a blue-collar player that you never have to worry about being ready to perform. Naturally, he was a great fit for the Bulls and the City of Chicago. He may not have been the quickest or the best defender, certainly he was not the most athletically gifted, but "Captain Kirk" played hard. He played tough and gritty. This characterization is not to take anything away from his skill set either. He was one of the better guards in the league at the time-- great at running an offense and knocking down the open shot. The kid even landed himself an endorsement deal with Converse.
His first five seasons with the Bulls, Hinrich averaged double figures in scoring and at least 6 assists per game. But being a fierce competitor is what has come to define him. This made him a fan favorite in and of itself. Now combine that with that fact that he carries himself with humble disposition, and even in his glory days, was never one to showboat. Hinrich was also never known to publicly complain or criticize his team, even when they were losing. He carried the burden of returning the Bulls to basketball relevancy with his chin up and chest out.
For years, Hinrich was all that Chicago could ask for in a point guard, that is until Derrick Rose arrived in 2008, of course. After acquiring the hometown phenom, Hinrich naturally became a bit expendable. Rose proved himself to be a unique talent. And while Hinrich had proven to be a formidable starting point guard in his own right, he could no longer be such on this particular team. Hinrich was eventually traded to the Washington Wizards, and after a short run in basketball purgatory, was mercifully dealt to the Atlanta Hawks.
Now his NBA career has come full-circle. After Rose went down with his well-publicized knee injury in last year's playoffs, the Bulls tapped none other than old reliable to come back and run the show this season. Only problem is, while Hinrich still plays with the same tenacity, his second stint with the team has not been nearly as memorable as the first.
It's not his fault. Hinrich offers a valiant effort every time he takes the court. It's just that injuries have prevented him from doing so as much as the organization would like. As a result, his impact has been minimal. Even when healthy enough to play, he averages just 7 points and is shooting a dreadful 37% from the field. Expecting Hinrich, now 32 years of age, to be the same player that he was last time in Chicago would be foolish anyhow. As Charles Barkley says "Father Time is undefeated," and looks to have Hinrich on the ropes.
Hinrich can probably play a few more years in the league regardless of age, because as stated earlier, his game was never reliant on athleticism. However, while the veteran leadership that he can offer is valuable, his days of being a game changer unfortunately look to be in the rear view. Hinrich has not been the successful Rose fill-in that perhaps many hoped he would be this season. Not even close-- which is sad, because there could not have been a better former Bull to wish it upon. So, here's to first impressions, and not second stumbles, becoming lasting memories.
Acamea Deadwiler is a Chicago-area native with several years experience covering the NBA, including the Chicago Bulls, for Examiner.com. She has also been featured in Bounce magazine, SLAM Online, and various other publications. Follow Acamea on Twitter @AcameaLD.
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