Feb 19, 2014; Toronto, Ontario, CAN; Chicago Bulls guard Kirk Hinrich (12) looks on against the Toronto Raptors at Air Canada Centre. The Bulls beat the Raptors 94-92. Mandatory Credit: Tom Szczerbowski-USA TODAY Sports

Kirk Hinrich plays a key role in recent wins

Each week, one of the Chicago Bulls is chosen as our featured “Player of the Week.” Along with that, there are two honorable mentions. Players are chosen  based on the player’s past week of performance. Our Twitter followers are asked for their opinions, which are then taken into consideration for the choices made. Kirk Hinrich is the featured Bull for the week of Feb.23-Mar. 1.

Ever since Kirk Hinrich returned to the Chicago Bulls, he hasn’t been quite the same player he was in his first stint. Last week, however, the veteran point guard showed glimpses of the player Bulls fans used to know.

It began with Tuesday’s win over the Atlanta Hawks. Hinrich’s shooting performance wasn’t at all spectacular. He went 3-of-12 from the field, but the important thing was he made the shots he made when it counted the most.

Late into the fourth quarter, DeMarre Carroll made a three to give Atlanta the 103-101 lead. Hinrich retaliated with a three-point attempt of his own and smartly drew the foul from Caroll.

“I knew if I let it go with a normal release, he’d block it,” Hinrich said. “It was the only option I had.”

He went on to make all three free throws to give Chicago the one-point lead. The Hawks then committed back-to-back turnovers while Hinrich would draw two more fouls. This resulted in three more clutch free throws to solidify the win. He finished the night with 14 points, one rebound, three assists and three steals.

“Kirky was huge. He hit big free throws, steals,” Joakim Noah said. “That was huge for this team. He just brings the energy on the defensive end and makes sure everybody’s in the right spot on offense, and he’s playing really confident, good basketball for us.”

His confidence was evident in Friday’s game at Dallas, as the starting point guard scored in double figures again. This time, however, Hinrich’s offensive performance wasn’t focused on free throws. Rather, he scored 17 points (7-8 FG, 2-2 3PT, 1-2 FT) in one of his best shooting nights of the season.

Even with the clutch plays and efficient shooting, it was his defense that really stood out last week. The best of it came during the Bulls’ 103-83 victory over the Warriors last Wednesday.

Hinrich was matched up with Stephen Curry, one of the league’s best scorers, Stephen Curry. It was Hinrich’s duty to keep the sharpshooting point guard from acting as a top-ten scorer, and it was done tremendously. He held Curry to five points that night, only going 2-for-10 from the field and 1-of-5 on threes.

“As soon as the game started, (Hinrich) was not shy about guarding (Curry),” Taj Gibson said. “He wanted to guard him. He was just trying to get in there and get deflections, whatever you could to try to alter his shot. Because when you go up against a guy like (Curry), you really can’t shut him off. You can only slow him down. He really was frustrated tonight. Hats off to Kirk, he did a great job.”

That was just the start of the praise, though.

“Kirk did a great job of setting the tone, picking (Curry) up full-court,” Carlos Boozer said. “And obviously us, we were very aware when Steph had the ball: Crowd him, trap him, tried to make other guys make shots. But give the credit to Kirk. He set the tone for us tonight.”

Noah also agreed that Hinrich set the tone for the Bulls, and Curry chimed in crediting the 33-year old for his stellar defense.

“He always seems to keep a hand on you and never really gets beat where his help isn’t,” Curry said. “So he’s very consistent at funneling you to where they want you to go. Tonight it was difficult to get him off-balance and go the opposite way. It wasn’t our night from the beginning, and they just outplayed us.”

As such a defensive-minded coach, Tom Thibodeau had nothing but good things to say of the defensive-minded guard; However, the appreciation wasn’t limited to just defense.

“You never can measure his true value if you go by statistics,” Thibodeau said. “If you go by what he’s doing for your team: setting the tone for the defense with his ball pressure, his hustle plays, first to the floor, running your team, the things he does, it really unites and inspires your team. And he plays to win, so I think it’s never lost on his teammates, and it’s certainly not lost on the coaches or the organization. We know how important he is and he’s been playing at a very high level. He’s a huge key for our team.”

Statistics are a big part of basketball, and it’s because of this Hinrich is often overlooked and/or criticized.  He doesn’t put up exceptional numbers, he’s not a scorer, and his shooting certainly isn’t what it used to be.  This past week, though, Hinrich’s statistics were a lot nicer to look at than usual.  Just don’t forget about his defense. It’s a big part of what kind of player he is.

Honorable mentions

Joakim Noah: The starting center averaged a double-double of 14.5 points and 13.25 rebounds in four games last week. He has continued to show his prowess as a playmaker, and it’s really factored into the Bulls’ recent success.

Taj Gibson: Gibson continued to prove why he should be considered as a Sixth Man of the Year candidate. The power forward out of USC had two double-doubles in the past week while averaging 18.75 points and 9.5 rebounds.

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Tags: Chicago Bulls Joakim Noah Kirk Hinrich Player Of The Week Taj Gibson

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