When Kirk Hinrich’s return to Chicago was first reported, there were a lot of mixed emotions. Some felt it was a great move, as Hinrich would be a great fit to fill in Derrick Rose’s shoes. Others questioned whether or not he would be able to handle that kind of workload nine years into his career, and it was for good reason.
Following his departure from the Bulls, Hinrich played for the Washington Wizards for half a season before being traded to the Atlanta Hawks, where he would stay for one and a half seasons. During his tenure with those teams, he experienced several injuries. With the Wizards, there were various minor injuries. In Atlanta, Hinrich suffered a torn right hamstring during the 2011 playoffs. Then, he dealt with a torn labrum and a cyst in his left shoulder during the lockout. Thinking injuries were behind him heading his way back to Chicago, Hinrich felt confident going into this past season.
“This offseason, I’ve been working really hard,” Hinrich said prior to the start of the 2012-13 season. “I haven’t really felt any ill effects. So hopefully, knock on wood, I’m going to stay healthy and be a contributor to a very good team.”
Unfortunately, that was not the case. Hinrich ended up suffering a plethora of injuries over the course of the season: a strained right hamstring, a sore big toe on his right foot, a bruised left knee, a strained right hip, a stress reaction in his right foot, an infection in his right elbow due to a burst bursa sac, and finally, the season-ending severely bruised left calf. With all of the injuries, it is safe to say that Hinrich’s season was defined by them. What may be worse is that it did not get much better for him either though when he did get to see playing time.
Aside from the never-ending injuries, his shooting is what really hurt. When he took shots, they rarely fell. Somehow, Hinrich actually managed to average over 40% on field goals for December, January, and April, but the other three months of the regular season featured him with a field goal percentage in the 30s. It took him until the end of the season to get into a good offensive rhythm that featured his shots falling and his confidence rising. This is not to say that Hinrich did a bad job when he was not injured though. He still did well running the team and getting shots for his teammates, as every point guard shot. Along with that, Hinrich showed a lot of hustle and remained the tough defensive player he had been known as throughout his career. He ended the regular season with pretty decent averages of 7.7 points on 37.7% shooting from the field, 2.6 rebounds, 5.2 assists (team high), and 1.1 steals.
The best part about Hinrich’s season was that, despite the struggles during the regular season, he stepped up in the time of most need: the playoffs. It may have taken him a game to realize that he needed to be more aggressive on both ends of the court, more of a threat to the Brooklyn Nets, but better late then than never. Hinrich’s increased confidence and level of play had a large impact on the Bulls being able to win the series. Not only did he defend Deron Williams well enough to prevent him from being a game changer in the series, but Hinrich also made sure to take his fair share of shots on the offensive end, something he was reluctant about during the majority of the regular season. This forced Williams to do work on both ends of the court, making Brooklyn’s job more difficult than it appeared to be.
What was most impressive about Hinrich in the playoffs was his performance in game four. The game ended up going into triple overtime with the result in favor of the Bulls: 142-134. During that game, Hinrich played 59:36 minutes, posted a double-double of 18 points (7-12 FG, 2-4 3PT, 2-3 FT) and 14 assists, 4 rebounds, 3 steals, and 1 block. After endless suffering with injuries, it seemed like they were finally behind him, and at exactly the right time as well. But to the Bulls’ dismay, that was not the case. Hinrich was actually kicked in his left calf during the game, but was able to play through the injury with adrenaline. Once the lengthy contest came to en end, he felt the effects of the kick, and it turned out to be a severely bruised calf.
The calf injury marked the end of Hinrich’s season, as he was left sitting aside Derrick Rose on the bench for the remainder of the post season. He never felt well enough to be able to do more than ride a bike on that calf. Hinrich ended the postseason averaging 11.3 points on 43.2% shooting from the field, 2.8 rebounds, 5.8 assists, and 2.0 steals. In an injury-plagued season, it only seemed fitting to have it end with an injury. It was just seemed so unfortunate and unfair though; it was the playoffs, and Hinrich had finally been playing well in all aspects of the game. Despite Hinrich’s regular season play, he redeemed himself greatly during the playoff series against Brooklyn.
Final Grade: B