When Derrick Rose fell to the ground, cradling his knee in agony, Bulls fans collectively gasped. With their Superman recovering from a torn ACL, who would save the day—and the season?
Why, Captain Kirk, of course.
Now Kirk Hinrich returns to Chicago after two years away and bears the responsibility of holding down the fort at Rose's point guard spot.
"I always enjoyed watching how this team competed and played unselfishly. That was something, when it came down to the decision time, that was part of my decision why I came back," said Hinrich, who talked about the conversations he and Rose had before his return to the Bulls from Atlanta. "I've got an unbelievable amount of respect for him. It worked out and I'm excited to be on the same side as him again."
The players who were on the Bulls the last time Hinrich was a fixture say he's already fitting back into the groove. The 31-year-old Hinrich may have been hit by a few minor injuries—including ones to his thumb and groin—during the preseason, but his teammates aren't fazed.
"It's just good to have him back. I know since he left, he's had a lot of injuries. Dealing with that is tough. But to have him back really it's like he never left," forward Taj Gibson said. "He just knows the court, he knows how we play. He's really unselfish and he's a leader, especially now."
Hinrich, who is expected to start Wednesday's season opener said he's not ready to be fitted for a superhero cape yet. However, he's comfortable settling into a leadership role.
"It's just something that comes with the territory as point guard of the team, especially as a veteran point guard," he said. "After the past couple of seasons being banged up, and because I was so banged up, [I was] not really enjoying it. I just try to stay healthy and do the extra little things that takes."
Hinrich said he's given up soda, fast food and fried stuff and doesn't much miss it, though he's still not a fan of the protective goggles he recently was told he has to wear.
"It was a big blow at first. They were really bothering me," he said. The goggles get "sweaty and foggy and uncomfortable," but he's also been told he could lose vision in one of his eyes without them. "It was something that I decided I had to do and just be comfortable with and now it's still not ideal, but I'm more used to it."
Does he feel any kind of solidarity with the high school nerd wearing glasses now that he's sporting his own pair?
"Yeah," he said with a laugh. "I guess they're not Rec Specs, but that kind of always used to be the joke when I was growing up, guys that wore Rec Specs. So I guess it's just the modern-day version of that."
Speaking of things Hinrich isn't a big fan of, that "Captain Kirk" nickname isn't his favorite.
"I mean, it's how I'm identified by a lot of people. We have great fans here but, sometimes it's an ehhhhh," he trails off with a shrug.
And though Hinrich may be lukewarm on the name (even saying he's not a "Star Trek" fan), Luol Deng says the Bulls love having him back.
"He knows my game really well. I know his game," the forward said. "He's definitely he's more mature. He's calm ... [and] his communication is a lot better."
Center Joakim Noah agreed, saying Hinrich's reintroduction has been seamless.
"First of all, Kirk's my neighbor and he's my friend," the center said. "I'm happy that he's back because I like him off the court and on the court. He's just a hell of a competitor. He just brings a whole different dimension with his energy and he's a hell of a player. It's good to have him."
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