“Captain Kirk” Hinrich’s Journey Back to Chicago


Jan 29, 2010; New Orleans, LA, USA; Chicago Bulls guard Kirk Hinrich (12) drives with the ball against the New Orleans Hornets during the first half at the New Orleans Arena. (Mandatory Credit: Derick E. Hingle-US PRESSWIRE)

On July 8, 2012, it was reported that former Bulls guard Kirk Hinrich had verbally committed to signing with his first NBA team, the Chicago Bulls. This was all just two years after the Bulls unofficially parted ways with their captain.

As an aspiring basketball player growing up in Sioux City, Iowa, it was Hinrich’s dream to be the Chicago Bulls’ starting point guard. When he was drafted by the Bulls as the seventh overall pick in the 2003 NBA Draft, his dream would eventually become a reality. Hinrich spent seven seasons in Chicago. During those seven seasons, he became the starting point guard and later on, the starting shooting guard, earned the nickname “Captain Kirk,” and became the Bulls all-time leader in three-point field goals made. He averaged 41.6% on field goals, 38.6% from downtown, 80.3% on free throws, 3.4 rebounds, 5.7 assists, 1.3 steals, and 13.2 points. He also became known for his defense and leadership.

After his departure from the Windy City, Hinrich headed to the nation’s capital. There he was named captain along with 2010’s number one draft pick John Wall. He started some games as a shooting guard with Wall at the point, others as the point guard without Wall. He also suffered a few minor injuries, including a sprained elbow, but nothing too serious. Hinrich would average 45.2% from the field, 38.4% on threes, 87.6% on free throws, 2.7 rebounds, 4.4 assists, 1.2 steals, and 11.1 points before leaving the Wizards. There were times when Hinrich’s frustration with the play of the Wizards was evident. Being traded to a playoff team pleased him when it did occur. On February 23, 2011, the Wizards traded the veteran point guard to the Atlanta Hawks right before the trade deadline concluded. The trade turned out to be a pretty good deal for Atlanta, at first anyway.

January 8, 2011; Charlotte, NC, USA; Washington Wizards guard Kirk Hinrich (12) during the game against the Charlotte Bobcats at Time Warner Cable Arena. Bobcats win 104-89. (Mandatory Credit: Sam Sharpe-US PRESSWIRE)

Initially, Hinrich made his impact felt by Atlanta early by helping improve their defense. He was imperative in helping stop the Orlando Magic’s Jameer Nelson and assisting the Hawks advance to the next round of the playoffs. Unfortunately, Hinrich injured his hamstring in game six of the Hawks-Magic series, Atlanta’s final game of the first round. This would cause him to sit out the following round of the playoffs against his former team, the Bulls. In that season with Atlanta, he averaged 43.2% for field goals, 42.1% on threes, 66.7% on free throws, 2.2 rebounds, 3.3 assists, 0.8 steals, and 8.6 points.

Hinrich also spent the 2011-12 NBA season in Atlanta, but due to a torn labrum and cyst in his left shoulder, he would miss the first 18 games of the season. When he returned, it was evident that he was affected by his shoulder, and he never really seemed to have fully recovered. With that, Hinrich posted his career low averages: 2.1 rebounds, 2.8 assists, and 6.6 points.

Hinrich’s role definitely reduced with the emergence of Jeff Teague, who replaced him as the starting point guard. He would eventually become the starting shooting guard, but it was evident the Hawks did not plan to keep him. Around the trade deadline, Hinrich was involved in many rumors that would lead him to the Los Angeles Lakers, but they never became a reality. This implied the Hawks would part ways with Hinrich when free agency began.

Mar 23, 2012; Atlanta, GA ,USA; Atlanta Hawks guard Kirk Hinrich (6) defends against New Jersey Nets guard Marshon Brooks (9) at Philips Arena. Mandatory Credit: Marvin Gentry-US PRESSWIRE

As free agency’s start neared, Hinrich was rumored to want to become a part of the Bulls or the New York Knicks, but he would not take the veteran minimum. Hinrich was considered by eight teams, including his former teams of the Bulls and Wizards. The Milwaukee Bucks also wanted him, who reportedly offered him $4 million per season. That did not come as a surprise since Milwaukee head coach Scott Skiles loved Hinrich when coaching in Chicago. Despite the generous offer, clearly, a return to the Bulls was exactly what he wanted taking a deal worth about $6 million over two years.

Hinrich’s decision to return was due in part to a desire to play for Bulls head coach Tom Thibodeau. According to the Chicago Tribune’s K.C. Johnson, one reason Hinrich was upset about the trade to D.C. was that he would not be able to play for Thibodeau, who has spoke highly of him in the past and recently.

“He’s an experienced guy,” said Thibodeau. “He’s played very well for all the teams that he’s been with, and he brings a lot in terms of veteran experience.”

Thibodeau was not the only member of the Bulls who had kind words on Hinrich. His former teammate and current Bulls power forward Taj Gibson actually spoke about his desire for a return to Chicago before Hinrich verbally committed to them.

“Kirk is a phenomenal player,” Gibson mentioned. “I played with Kirk my rookie year. He was phenomenal in helping me grow as a player. He was a phenomenal leader. He was one of those tough minded players that doesn’t really care about much (besides) getting wins, and it would be great to have Kirky back on our team…I know Kirk is a great player, and it would help our team out a lot, especially right now in this season without Derrick (Rose).”

Gibson is correct when it comes to Hinrich being of much help to the Bulls while Derrick Rose is out. He may not be as spectacular or skilled as Rose, but Hinrich has a great work ethic, veteran experience, and defense that will fit right in with Thibodeau’s system. He will also be a good mentor to rookie point guard Marquis Teague. After all, Hinrich did act as Rose’s mentor at one point. With that being said, his return to Chicago should come as a benefit.

Welcome back, Captain Kirk.