A look back on one of the steadying presences in the history of the Bulls franchise, Kirk Hinrich
We are doing segments here on ChiCitySports.com, remembering players who contributed to their respective teams that may have been overlooked and/or underappreciated during their time in Chicago. I wrote one about Ben Gordon and Joakim Noah, so go check those out. Today, we focus on a big fan favorite and a consistent producer throughout his time in Chicago, Kirk Hinrich.
Start of career
Kirk Hinrich was drafted 7th overall in the 2003 NBA draft by your Chicago Bulls. Hinrich, a four-year senior at the University of Kansas, was coming off his senior season where he averaged 17.3 points, 3.8 rebounds, and 3.5 assists a game. His Jayhawks team made it to the National Championship, losing to Syracuse and #3 overall pick, Carmelo Anthony.
Hinrich was coming to a Bulls organization that was a true mess. Jay Williams, the team’s top pick the year before, got injured in a motorcycle accident in the summer of 2003 and never played again, squashing the opportunity for him and Hinrich to lead the back-court.
Hinrich showed flashes in his rookie year and the ability to be a true NBA point guard, averaging 12 points and 6.8 assists per game in 76 games, 66 of which he started.
Chicago added Shooting Guard Ben Gordon and Forward Luol Deng in the 2004 NBA draft to compliment Hinrich and team success started showing soon after. In the 2004-05 season, Hinrich averaged 15.7 points and 6.4 assists per game, being a key reason why the Bulls won 47 games and clinched their first playoff birth since 1998.
This success continued for the next two seasons, with the Bulls reaching the playoffs and Hinrich was one of the main reasons why. 2006-07 was Hinrich’s best statistical year of his career, averaging 16.6 points and 6.3 assists per game, while also shooting over 41 percent from three. Hinrich was also named to the all-defensive team this season, proving that his scrappiness and will to win were being rewarded by the people watching.
Adjusting to Derrick Rose
After a sub-par 2007-08 season that led to Derrick Rose coming to town, Hinrich played a different role and came off the bench for the 2008-09 season. Hinrich averaged 9.9 points and 4 assists per game in this new role, and the Bulls made the playoffs, just missing the upset against the Boston Celtics, a series they lost in 7 games.
After Ben Gordon signed a deal with the Detroit Pistons, Hinrich returned to the starting lineup in 2009-10, starting 53 games and averaging 10.9 points per game.
After the 2010 season, Hinrich was traded to the Washington Wizards for the draft rights to future Bulls legend Vladimir Veremeenko. Washington is where goggles Kirk Hinrich was born, as Wizards optometrist Keith Smithson informed Hinrich that he could lose sight in his left eye if he were to be hit. Goggles would be worn for the rest of his playing career.
Hinrich was then traded to the Atlanta Hawks midway through the 2010-11 season, where he ended up playing until after the 2012 season.
In free agency, Captain Kirk then re-signed with the Bulls on a two-year contract.
With Rose out for the year with a torn ACL suffered in the 2012 playoffs, Hinrich was the starting point guard once again. Injuries slowed down Kirk, who played just 60 games and averaged 7.7 points and 5.2 assists per game.
There’s a reason why this town loved him though. In the Bulls’ first-round matchup against the Brooklyn Nets, Hinrich played 60(!) minutes in Game 4, totaling 18 points and 14 assists. While Nate Robinson may be remembered most for his heroics, Hinrich pushed through a ruptured calf suffered in the second quarter to give the Bulls a chance to win.
Hinrich was once again the starter next season after Derrick Rose’s season ended after 10 games. Kirk managed to play in 73 games, his most in five seasons, and was on another Bulls playoff team, despite missing their best player.
While there are not many people running to YouTube to make Kirk Hinrich mixtapes, I was able to find some solid gems.
Kirk played two more seasons, one with Chicago and one back in Atlanta. Hinrich retired in 2016, finishing with totals of 10.9 points and 4.8 assists per game over 13 seasons in the NBA.
Kirk Hinrich’s resiliency, competitiveness, and his being the start to the Bulls’ turnaround in the 2000s are what will keep his name in Bulls folklore forever.
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