CHICAGO -- The more Kirk Hinrich and Tom Thibodeau speak, the easier it is to understand how the two found each other during the summer’s free-agency period. In basketball circles the two men always have been defined by their work ethic.
"He's a hard-nosed competitor," Thibodeau said recently. "I think the fact he was here once before helps a lot. He's familiar with a lot of the players that we have so I think that helps his transition. And he's been in a lot of different situations. He's a very good leader and I just think it's a good fit for us."
Through three preseason games Hinrich has been the most consistent player on the Chicago Bulls roster. He's the one who sets the tone for the rest of the team and he's the one who has fallen back into the groove of being a leader of the organization. Whether Hinrich is playing on the floor, or speaking to reporters off it, it's clear that he is enjoying his second life in a Chicago uniform.
"I just tried to approach it as a new stage in my career," Hinrich said. "I'm looking as it as an opportunity. I'm on a team that kind of values the same things I value. And it's been fun so far."
Then Hinrich added the part that Thibodeau loves most.
"It's a lot of work, but it's been fun."
Hinrich's play has the rest of his teammates enjoying his return as well. In place of Derrick Rose, he's made it a point to try and create open shots for others. He has 18 assists in the first three contests.
"He's got a great feel," Boozer said. "He's got so much going through his mind right now trying to get our plays (down). He's got Thibs in his ear on our side and all of us trying to help him out as well. He has a great feel for the game. The more comfortable he gets … the better he's going to be and it's fun playing with him."
The person having the most fun is Hinrich himself. After spending the past few years in basketball outposts like Washington and Atlanta, Hinrich appreciates being back in Chicago. It doesn't seem that long ago that the Bulls drafted him out of Kansas in 2003.
"It goes fast," Hinrich said. "When you first come in the league all the veterans tell you how fast it goes and you don't really know what they mean by that until you get to that point. It's my 10th year and I'm just happy to be healthy right now and excited for the season."