“Kirk is someone I could see playing alongside a long time,” Rose said at Bulls media day on Monday. “When you’re a hooper and you know someone on the court is going into a battle with you, and he’s not giving up if he knows you are going to keep battling and I’m someone that will keep fighting to the end, and he’s the same as you, so why not have him on the team? Kirk is the first person I recruited.”
That’s high praise coming from one of the game’s best stars. Not only did Rose recruit Hinrich, Hinrich will be asked to fill the former MVP’s role until he recovers from an ACL injury.
“I don’t feel that much pressure,” Hinrich said of playing in Rose’s spot. “This is a good fit for me. The way they play, the things they emphasize.”
Previously Rose had indicated he wasn’t the type to be calling free agents. It didn’t happen with LeBron James, Chris Bosh or Dwyane Wade when those NBA stars were available. That changed with Hinrich.
“I had some questions for him,” Hinrich said. “I hadn’t had a chance to chat with him in a while. Just wanted to talk to him and see where he was at. I’m just excited to be back.”
Both Bulls general manager Gar Forman and coach Tom Thibodeau believe Hinrich’s familiarity with the organization and the city is a big bonus for the former first-round pick. Hinrich played for the Bulls from 2003-10 before stints in Washington and Atlanta.
“When you have a player here, you kind of overlook what a player does,” former and current teammate Luol Deng said. “In the past few years that Kirk has been gone I think, everyone that follows the Bulls, you start missing what he used to do. It was clear defensively how good he was and how committed he was to the team. I’m happy to have him back.”
Hinrich’s first stint wasn’t always a winning experience. The Bulls were rebuilding and expectations for Hinrich, the seventh pick in the draft, were high.
“We didn’t win to a level that we wanted to,” Hinrich said. “I wouldn’t say it was a success but I enjoyed my time here. … It was clear we had one goal in mind and we worked hard at it and we just didn’t accomplish what we wanted to.”