NBA Saturday: Making the Most of Hinrich
Kirk Hinrich Returns to Bulls Fully Charged
Seeing Kirk Hinrich don that white #12 Chicago Bulls jersey sure does make this feel an awful lot like 2008. That’s the last time Chicago played a preseason game at the University of Illinois, but Derrick Rose’s rookie campaign feels like a distant memory. In fact, with Rose not even in the building Friday night for the Bulls’ return to Assembly Hall, it felt even stranger to have Hinrich running the point.
Yet there he was, just like old times.
This is not old times, however. Hinrich has never played for Tom Thibodeau, and nearly all of his teammates are completely new to him. Despite all that, Hinrich knows exactly why the Bulls brought him back.
“I’m here to run the team,” Hinrich said before the preseason game in Champaign. “We’ve got a lot of guys who can do different things, and so far in camp I’m just trying to pick up the offense as quickly as possible. I’m not thinking so much out there because it’s just coming kind of easy.”
Despite the new playbook, some things are the same as they always were, especially as it pertains to how positively the fans have responded to his return.
“The first home preseason game it was a little weird being back, but once I got out there it felt pretty normal,” Hinrich said. “The fans of Chicago have always been great to me. They’re some of the best fans in the world, and it’s fun to play in front of them.”
Fans know that this isn’t the same Hinrich, though. He has spent much of the last couple years in Atlanta and Washington nursing myriad injuries. While he may be a little slower than he once was, Hinrich still can bring a lot to a Bulls team that is really going to need him while Rose continues rehabbing his knee.
“I’ve matured a lot, and I’ve improved in a lot of areas,” Hinrich admitted. “The main thing for me is just trying to run the team. Being injured the last couple years, I’m just doing what I have to do to stay healthy.”
And, Hinrich claims, he’s as healthy as he’s been in years.
“I feel good.,” Hinrich said. “My body feels better than I have in the past. I don’t have any major issues that I’m trying to rehab and get back. I can just focus on the basketball part of it.”
That wasn’t always the case, however. Last year, in particular, was challenging for him.
“I had been pretty fortunate up to that point, but it’s tough to be injured,” Hinrich said. “I had been the kind of the guy who needs to get my reps every day. Practice, dummy offense, getting my individual work in—that’s all very important to me. To be injured, and to have the lockout year, it was frustrating.”
Now, though, he’s just glad to be back with a team that not only should win some games, but also really needs him.
“Just to be part of a good team like this, the way we play, it’s a good fit for me,” he said. “We’re going to take it a day at a time. We’ve got guys who are capable, and we’re going to go out there and compete every day.”
It’s going to be hard to compete without their superstar, but by signing Hinrich the Bulls hoped to soften the blow of Rose’s (mostly) lost season by bringing back a guy who is beloved by both fans and the organization. He might not be the same player he was five years ago, but he still helps the Bulls win games. That, for now, is good enough.
Nick Young Sparkles in Debut
In Nick Young’s first preseason game as a member of the Philadelphia 76ers, the talented shooter scored 22 points, including 12 in the fourth quarter on 4-of-6 shooting. It was, to put it lightly, a great debut for the man intended to replace Lou Williams’ scoring this season in Philadelphia.
“It feels great,” Young told HOOPSWORLD after his Sixers debut in Orlando. “I was a little anxious to get out there, but I’ve got to get used to winning. I’m just enjoying it.”
Winning hasn’t always come easy for Young, who spent his first four-and-a-half seasons playing for a Washington Wizards team that wasn’t exactly an annual league-leader in victories. He got a little taste of the postseason during his short stint with the L.A. Clippers last year, but he should see his role expand in Philly—another team expected to do well in the 2013 playoffs.
“The opportunity is right here,” Young said. “I’ve just got to take full advantage of it.”
Part of that opportunity is going to come at the three-point line, where Young will be expected to knock down a ton of shots this year. With Andrew Bynum clogging things up down low, defenders should close in and create plenty of opportunities for the Sixers’ new deep threat.
“It’s crazy. You can be out the wing by yourself, just wide open. I’ve got to get used to that,” Young said, grinning like a tween at a “Twilight” premier.
Young looks relaxed and confident early this season, and it’s easy to see why. He’s only on a one-year deal with the Sixers, but should he prove to be as valuable all year as he was in the team’s opening contest, he could very well find himself a part of this team long-term.
And if he scores 12 or more points every fourth quarter, Sixers brass will be just fine with keeping him around.
Yoga Paced Tristan Thompson’s Offseason
The Cleveland Cavaliers played two top-four draft picks extensively last year, and one of them was Rookie of the Year Kyrie Irving. The other was Tristan Thompson, who looked promising at times and pretty average other nights, but inconsistency is the hobgoblin of NBA rookies, and all things considered, Thompson had himself a respectable first season.
The question now is whether he’ll get markedly better in his sophomore campaign. Bets are on that he will, and considering how hard he worked in the offseason, it’s hard to imagine him not experiencing some measure of improvement.
“The summer is what makes you in terms of the NBA,” Thompson said. “This summer I wanted to put in a lot of time getting stronger and continuing to work on my craft, especially in the post. Big men really only need two or three shots—the hook shot left and right, the turn-and-face and a counter. I worked on that all summer, and I’m going to be doing it in the game.”
The end result is fifteen extra pounds of muscle and a more versatile offensive game, but just listening to his summer workout routine could make a mere mortal break into a spontaneous flop sweat. It’s hard to imagine what three months of actually doing it all must have actually been like.
Thompson’s summer days included “two-a-days, yoga, on-the-court work, weight room, spin class… it’s all sorts of stuff. The Cavs, myself and our strength team came in with a game plan for the summer, and that’s what I did.”
Yoga, Thompson said, was especially helpful, surprising as that might be.
“As you get older, you understand the importance of this stuff. After lifting weights and adding muscle, you have to add some flexibility. Yoga helps relax your body, relax your mind and it helps your breathing,” Thompson said. “Getting up and down the court in the fourth quarter when everybody’s huffing and puffing, that’s where something like yoga can really put you over the edge.”
So far in the preseason, Thompson has been a starter, and while it doesn’t seem likely that he’ll lose that spot, he says he could care less about the designation.
“It’s not how you start; it’s how you finish,” Thompson said. “I want to do whatever it takes to win, so if coach wants me to start, so be it. I’ll accept that role, but if he wants me to come off the bench and be a spark, I have no problem with that. I did that last year. At the end of the day, winning trumps everything.”
It’s still a very young Cleveland team that Thompson plays for, so wins might be slow in coming again this year. Despite that, if the Cavs are going to put themselves on the right track, Thompson is going to have to take a huge leap forward this year. Irving may have been the Rookie of the Year in 2012, but Thompson needs to catch up in order to hurry this rebuilding process along.
The Cavs are betting he’ll be able to do it, but even if he doesn’t, no one will be able to say he didn’t work hard enough.