Bullish market: Chicago signs Hinrich to extension

It wasn't too long ago that free agents only stopped in Chicago to catch connecting flights to other, more competitive cities. How things have changed.

Kirk Hinrich Hinrich

After landing the marquee free agent of the offseason in Ben Wallace, the Bulls have convinced point guard Kirk Hinrich to sign a long-term extension -- and for a hometown discount.

The Chicago Tribune cited league sources on Tuesday saying that the Kansas product has agreed to a five-year deal worth $47.5 million. The extension kicks in for the 2007-08 season and is front-loaded, with the first year paying approximately $11.42 million and then tailing off to about $7.8 million in the final year. The structure offers the Bulls financial flexibility in coming years when Andres Nocioni, Luol Deng and Ben Gordon are due new contracts.

If Hinrich had not accepted the deal by 11:59 p.m. Tuesday, he
would have become a restricted free agent next summer and the Bulls
would have had the opportunity to match any offer. Now, that
angst-ridden process can safely be canceled.

"It's a dream come true, completely," Hinrich said. "To be
with this organization, an organization that I grew up cheering for
and was a big fan of and to be able to provide my family with
security, it's just a great day. … My parents used to scrap
pennies to provide for me, and now I'm making almost $50 million
playing basketball."

Bulls executive vice president of basketball operations John Paxson was equally happy.

"Kirk Hinrich is imperative to the foundation of our organization and we are extremely pleased to have him with us long term," he said. "We are attempting to build a team based on character and commitment and these are both traits that Kirk possesses at a very high level. This is a very good day for the Chicago Bulls organization."

In his third season in the league last year, Hinrich averaged 15.9 points and 6.3 assists and established himself as one of the top defensive guards in the league. He was a somewhat surprise edition to the U.S. National team that played in this summer's FIBA World Championship.

Hinrich and his representatives had been asking for money similar to the six-year, $66 million deal Tony Parker signed with the Spurs on the eve of the 2004-05 season, but a look around the league revealed that not many teams could fit him under the salary cap for that kind of money.

The Tribune reported that Hinrich and Paxson recently had a private meeting where it is thought that the former Bulls guard convinced his current one that he could be part of something big in Chicago.

As recently as Sunday, however, Hinrich said he didn't think the deal
would get done in time. But it did, and he signed it only a few
hours before the Bulls opened their season with a 108-66 victory
over the Miami Heat.

"It feels good," Hinrich said. "Took a little bit of a long
time, but I'm glad to have it done and just feel good to be a
Chicago Bull. I'm just excited about it."

Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.