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Hinrich helping to take pressure off Rose

11/17/2013

CHICAGO -- There's a reason Kirk Hinrich was the first player Derrick Rose ever openly recruited with the Chicago Bulls.

The 25-year-old former MVP decided to try to get Hinrich back to the Bulls last summer because he saw the possibilities that would come to fruition in Saturday night's win over the Indiana Pacers. He knew that he would be able to play his game alongside Hinrich, and he knew there was a comfort level with the veteran point guard that he didn't have with a lot of players around the league. That was on full display against the Pacers as Rose and the Bulls had their best game of the season -- with Rose playing off the ball and Hinrich running the show.

"We're making quick decisions with the group that's out there," Rose said of playing with Hinrich. "Especially me and Kirk, because the decision-making is unreal because the ball is moving. When you're playing against a bunch of guys that's really moving the ball and know the game of basketball, it's going to be hard to guard."

The Pacers found that out on Saturday night as Rose and Hinrich combined for 33 points and 12 assists. The pair ripped the Pacers in the second half, zigzagging them all over the floor and showing Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau that this is a lineup he should utilize more often during games.

"I'm real comfortable out there with him," Hinrich said of playing with Rose. "It gives us multiple guys [who] can play in pick-and-rolls. It's just another dimension that we can put out there."

It's a dimension that few could have envisioned working so well before the season began. Between Hinrich's inability to stay on the floor because of various injuries and Rose's rustiness after missing the past year and a half because of injury, the duo's ability to change the game came as a surprise to some -- but not to those within the Bulls' locker room. They figured Rose and Hinrich could catch lightning in a bottle.

"Because they can both score," Bulls forward Carlos Boozer said. "They're both smart players. They're both great playmakers, and they're just fast as s---. When you think about it, you've got Derrick, one of the fastest guys on the planet. Kirk's one of the fastest guys in the league. They can both handle, they can both assist, they can both score, they shoot.

"It's two really good players playing together, so you can go pick-and-roll on one side with Derrick, and if nothing happens -- but something's usually going to happen. But if nothing happens, if they play amazing defense, you can swing it over to Kirk and do pick-and-roll with Kirk and still have great options. Plus, they can guard multiple positions. Derrick's strong. Kirk's like 6-5 and strong, so it's good for our team."

The key for the Bulls is that it's very good for Rose. He looked comfortable playing off the ball knowing that he didn't have to do everything offensively.

"[Hinrich] put a lot of pressure on teams with the second pick-and-roll," Rose said. "And this is my first time ever being out there with a guy that could play pick-and-roll like the way that he does. And it makes the game easy -- when they swing the ball back … I can just shoot the ball, and I think I'm a great set shooter."

Rose has been criticized for a lot of different reasons over the past few seasons, but he was questioned especially hard after he revealed that he went out of his way to bring Hinrich to Chicago last summer during the free-agency period after his well-publicized decision not to openly recruit LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh in the summer of 2010. While Hinrich will never be the type of player the other three have already become, he does have a chemistry with Rose that is undeniable and continues to grow.

"I think we play a little faster," Hinrich said. "We play more off pick-and-rolls. We get pick-and-rolls on one side, pick-and-roll on the other side, keep the defense moving. … it's hard to get locked into what we're doing because pick-and-rolls on multiple sides of the floor are tough to defend. The bigs are moving, and it opens other things up. You've got guys closing out to shooters, and, usually, you have a high success rate."