Ball distribution makes Kirk Hinrich the Bulls’ best option at the point
BY JOE COWLEY email@example.com December 19, 2012 9:15PM
“Kirk is our floor general,” Nate Robinson said of Hinrich (above). | Jonathan Daniel~Getty Images
Updated: January 21, 2013 4:03PM
Three weeks into December, the last thing the Bulls needed was a point-guard controversy.
But there it was, front and center Tuesday evening, after another disappointing shooting night by starter Kirk Hinrich.
Even Hinrich’s teammates couldn’t ignore the obvious.
“You hear the talk,’’ Joakim Noah said.
On whether Hinrich should be benched for Nate Robinson? No. The controversy Noah was referring to is how people on the outside believe the Bulls can function efficiently without Hinrich starting until Derrick Rose returns from injury.
“The controversy is, there is even a controversy,’’ Noah said. “No one is expecting Kirk to be Derrick. What he brings is a component that is very different, and we need that. He locks up [on defense], sticks his nose in there in the paint, always helping. He’s a smart defender. And you know what? He’s the catalyst. He’s the one that gets the ball moving, so he’s good for us.’’
In most cases, Hinrich has been the best option to start. The last two games? Not even close.
During the loss Monday night in Memphis, Hinrich shot 2-for-8 in 31 minutes, finishing with four points and five assists. As for his “lock-down’’ defense, Grizzlies counterpart Mike Conley scored a game-high 17.
A night later against the Celtics, Hinrich was 0-for-2 in 24 minutes, didn’t score and had two assists. Rajon Rondo scored a game-high 26.
Coach Tom Thibodeau said that numbers won’t determine how he judges his point guard, and that’s good for Hinrich. The other factor is that Hinrich missed two games last week with a sore left knee and he’s working through some discomfort. He’ll get a pass for now.
“Just toughness. Runs the team. That’s how I evaluate him,’’ Thibodeau said. “He competes, sets the tone for the team. The thing that gets overlooked sometimes is shot distribution. He knows what he’s trying to get to. Your primary scorers are going to get pretty good looks. And you know, he’ll get back in rhythm.’’
That shot distribution will keep Hinrich ahead of Robinson on the depth chart. Hinrich knows how to get the Bulls’ front line in the right position to score, while Robinson is a shoot-first-ask-questions-later spark plug. Even Robinson admitted that.
“Kirk is our floor general,’’ Robinson said. “There are a lot of guys on this team that can do different things, but Kirk runs the show better than anyone on our team. That’s what we need him to do.
“If he was getting hockey assists, he would lead the league. Look how he’ll hit Jo with a pass, and then Jo makes the right pass to get the assist. He can get guys in the spots they need to in order to succeed, and he does a hell of a job at that.’’
So what happens when Rose is ready to return?
One Bull said that Hinrich has been running a lot more of a two-guard look in practice the last month, and with Marco Belinelli making the loss of an injured Richard Hamilton much easier to deal with, Hinrich could be a backup at both guard spots. That would free up the Bulls to trade Hamilton.
As far as the point guard spot, even when Rose does return, the Bulls want depth there just in case of a setback to Rose’s knee. They also want to have enough bodies in place to help ease Rose’s minutes.
“Kirk is huge for us, and we need Kirk, no matter what people think,’’ Noah said. “He’s a hell of a competitor, and he’s a fighter. I love playing with the guy. What people have to understand is there is a lot of basketball to be played, so relax.’’
So much for the controversy.