The Bulls have made their first move in the NBA's free-agency period by bringing back a familiar face: Kirk Hinrich. As first reported by the Chicago Tribune, the veteran guard agreed to a two-year, 6-million contract, a source confirmed to CSNChicago.com.
The deal is believed to be the "mini" mid-level exception, according to the same source, which is earmarked for teams up against the salary cap. While Hinrich drew interest from several other NBA teams, including the nearby division rival Milwaukee Bucks, ultimately returning to the franchise that drafted him and being able to live with his family in his north-suburban home he has resided in during offseasons since being traded from the Bulls in the summer of 2010 was a deciding factor.
Hinrich, who is capable of playing both guard positions and is regarded as a strong defender, will likely start the season as the Bulls' starting point guard as Derrick Rose recovers from ACL surgery. When Rose eventually returns, the veteran will reprise a role he's familiar with by backing up Rose, as well as incumbent starting shooting guard Rip Hamilton.
The Bulls will likely opt for another veteran point guard on the roster, as first-round pick Marquis Teague is inexperienced and still must learn both Bulls head coach Tom Thibodeau's system and the NBA game, but with Hinrich set to sign his contract on July 11 -- the date the free-agent moratorium ends and players' commitments to teams can become official -- that player is unlikely to be free agent C.J. Watson, for whom the team has a 3 million option for next season.
The Bulls are expected to waive Watson and free-agent swingman Ronnie Brewer by Tuesday, before their contracts are guaranteed for next season. Another free-agent point guard on the roster, John Lucas III, could be another casualty of Hinrich coming back, as the Thibodeau and fan favorite will seek out a multi-year, guaranteed deal elsewhere and with Teague needing playing time to grasp the nuances of the professional level, the backup role, even with Rose on the shelf to begin the season, will be filled.
Other pending decisions for the Bulls, besides whether or not to match backup center Omer Asik's offer sheet from Houston, which they will have three days to do after July 11 or whenever the Rockets formalize the agreement, include free-agent sharpshooter Kyle Korver's 5-million team option for next season. But with a starting-caliber point guard in the fold, the Bulls' attention may have turned to addressing their wing depth -- although it's quite possible that All-Star Luol Deng will not require surgery for his injured left wrist after the Olympics in his hometown of London -- and with free agent Gerald Green, who played for the Nets last season, visiting the Berto Center on both Friday and Saturday to meet with team management, the organization's next move could have zeroed in on its next target, especially if the athletic swingman is willing to play for the league veteran's minimum.