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Back in old role, Hinrich's Wizards host Bulls

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Back in old role, Hinrich's Wizards host Bulls

Wednesday, Dec. 22, 2010
11:57 a.m.

By Aggrey Sam
CSNChicago.com

WASHINGTONIt took a trade of the former face of his new franchise and an injury to the teams star of the future, but Kirk Hinrich is back to playing his natural position of point guard. With Gilbert Arenas now in Orlando and No. 1 pick John Wall sidelined with a knee injury, Captain Kirk is the Wizards primary ballhandlerthe formerly guard-heavy team now lacks capable ballhandlers, forcing them to sign free agent Lester Hudson, whom they waived after the preseasonand hes acquitted himself well, leading Washington to a convincing rout Monday over Charlotte and a frustratingly close loss Saturday to Miami, in which the young team snatched defeat out of the grasp of victory.

It might be a distant memory now, but Hinrich was once of the leagues up-and-coming point guards, highly regarded enough of a floor general to be selected to USA Basketballs 2006 FIBA World Championships team. Then the Bulls drafted Derrick Rose and Hinrich, always a selfless team player and possessing the versatility to slide over to shooting guard, made way for the young superstar.

As a shooting guard, Hinrich is undersized and not a consistent enough shooter or truly offensive-minded enoughas a shooter, although his point-guard instincts lend themselves to the occasional spree of overdribblingto present problems for most opponents as a scoring threat. On the defensive end, which has become his calling card, Hinrich gives his counterparts fits with his quickness and determination, but for most elite shooting guardswho usually possess a size advantagehes more of a pesky defender than a stopper.

As a point guard, while he wasnt on the top-tier level of a Steve Nash or Chauncey Billups, Hinrich, in his heyday, had excellent size for his position, his pass-first nature often created an unselfish team and often paired with Ben Gordon in the backcourt, his defensive talents made up for his backcourt mates shortcomings on that end of the floor with his ability to guard both positions.

Traded to Washington in the offseason to clear further salary-cap space for Chicago, Hinrich was third on the depth chart at his natural position to start the season and actually started his preseason return to the United Center at small forward, back when Wizards coach Flip Saunders was compelled to start games with a college-like three-guard set. He appeared to be clearly out of place with the Wizards, with Wall a jet-quick, shooting-deficient, ball-dominating point guard in the mold of Rose as a rookie and Arenas simply used to playing in a shoot-first, dribble-second, pass-third mode.

Wall will eventually return to the lineupalthough Saunders confirmed at Wednesday mornings shootaround that there was no change with the No. 1 overall pick status for the evenings gamebut for the time being, Hinrich is back to playing the position where he excelled as a high school All-American, a collegiate star at Kansas and the early portion of his Bulls career.

Im more comfortable playing point guard, Hinrich said at the Wednesdays Wizards morning shootaround, in a hallway outside the teams Verizon Center practice court. I feel like I can play both positions, but Im definitely a little more comfortable kind of running the show.

An understatement to say the least, but thats always been Hinrichs way. A Bulls fan since his youth in Iowa, his disappointment at being traded awayto a young, non-contending team, at thatwas palatable, but after so much speculation in recent years that Chicago would move him and his hefty contract out of town, he couldnt have been too taken aback, although if rumored trades to the likes of the Celtics or Lakers would have happened, the move would have been a bit easier to swallow.

Always a professional, Hinrich looked for a silver lining in the recently improved play of his team and claimed his focus is on the present, not the past.

We need to come out with the same mindset, same sense of urgency and go out there and share the ball, help each other on both ends and hopefully we can get a win, said Hinrich. Ive just been trying to kind of focus on us. I havent been paying too much attention to them the Bulls, except for yesterday and today, when were getting ready to play them. But just from what Ive seen, theyre playing hard. Defensively, theyre good. Theyve got some good players and theyre playing well, so its definitely going to be a challenge.

Its not so strange anymore to play against the Bulls. Ive been here for a while now and Im comfortable, so its not as strange as it was earlier in the year.

Being back in a familiar role certainly makes that easier.

Aggrey Sam is CSNChicago.com's Bulls Insider. Follow him @CSNBullsInsider on Twitter for up-to-the-minute Bulls information and his take on the team, the NBA and much more.

Here's why the Bulls didn't take Michael Porter Jr. last night

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USA TODAY

Here's why the Bulls didn't take Michael Porter Jr. last night

There was angst and anger among the Bulls fan base following the team's selection of Wendell Carter in Thursday's NBA Draft. Though the team had been linked to Missouri forward Michael Porter Jr. - and he was far and away the biggest fan favorite - the Bulls passed on the former No. 1 prospect, opting to play it safe and find a complement to Lauri Markkanen on the frontline.

Porter fell farther than just past the Bulls at No. 7. Cleveland opted for Collin Sexton. The Knicks and Sixers went with wings similar to Porter in Kevin Knox and Mikal Bridges.

Porter didn't hear his name called until the very last selection of the Lottery, with the Nuggets grabbing the 6-foot-10 scorer. It's a dice roll for Denver, but one it can afford after it won 47 games and was Game No. 82 away from making the postseason. They're a team on the rise that doesn't need an immediate contribution from a rookie. And that's good, because Porter might not be contributing at all in his rookie season.

Gar Forman and John Paxson were asked about whether Porter was in consideration at No. 7, and if his medicals played any part in the decision to pass.

And while Forman wouldn't address medical situations, he did say the Bulls were in contact with Porter throughout the draft process.

"We spent time with Mike, he’s a great young man," Paxson said. "We’re not gonna talk about medical things. We go through a diligent process every single year.

"This year we probably had more debate and dialogue as a staff. Varying degrees of opinion were really strong. We wish him the best out in Denver."

Paxson didn't say that "debate and dialogue" necessarily included Porter, but multiple reports said the Bulls weren't interested in Porter when it came down to choosing at No. 7.

And it makes sense. The Bulls are in a position where they're beginning to move along in their rebuild. They needed a contributor, and someone who could play right away. Porter wasn't that player, and he wasn't going to be a great fit with Markkanen and Zach LaVIne anyway.

It'll always be fun to think about what could have been, but the injury risk was simply too high for the Bulls to consider using an important 7th pick on a guy who might not play for 16 months.

Boise State coach Leon Rice believes Chandler Hutchison, Bulls are a 'match made in heaven'

Boise State coach Leon Rice believes Chandler Hutchison, Bulls are a 'match made in heaven'

The Bulls ended long-standing speculation and drafted Boise State senior wing Chandler Hutchinson with the No. 22 overall pick in the first round of Thursday's 2018 NBA Draft.

The 6-foot-7 Hutchison has been linked to Chicago since opting out of the 2018 NBA Draft Combine in May as he gives the Bulls a versatile and experienced wing on the perimeter.

A late-bloomer both during high school career in Mission Viejo, California and during his four years at Boise State, Hutchison has always been willing to put in the work to reach the next levels of basketball. Hutchison elevated from a mid-major recruit into a top-100 national prospect by the end of high school. And similar to his prep career, Hutchison blossomed into a first-round pick after a slow start to his career at Boise State.

Broncos head coach Leon Rice offered strong praise for his former star player, as Hutchinson became the go-to player for the Broncos during his junior and senior seasons. Because Hutchison can play multiple spots, rebound, defend and push off the break, he's an intriguing piece for the Bulls' future rotation. Hutchison should be able to play on the wing alongside other rebuilding pieces like Lauri Markkanen and Wendell Carter Jr.

"I think the Chicago Bulls got a steal," Rice said to NBC Sports Chicago. "You look at the last four years, he's gotten better every year."

"I think it's a great fit. You've got a terrific coach out there for Chandler and the style that he is. It's just the same way. I think it's a really good match."

It wasn't always easy for Hutchinson at Boise State. Rice and former Broncos assistant coach Jeff Linder were both convinced that Hutchison had the ability to develop into a star from the time they started recruiting him. But Hutchison needed time to develop his strength and skill level before he became a standout player.

"Our assistant coach Jeff Linder, who I really think is one of our best evaluators, he went and watched this kid. And he calls me, and it's five minutes into the game, and he's like, 'I've seen enough. He's what we need,'" Rice said. "He's got a feel for the game, he's long. I think people labeled him a little bit because he's from Orange County. In my estimation, he didn't fit that label. He just wasn't developed yet. He was young and he looked young. He just wasn't mature yet, that's the bottom line."

When he arrived on campus, Hutchinson was a touted top-100 prospect -- a rarity for the program and the Mountain West Conference. But the program already had talented and experienced players ahead of Hutchison in the rotation. Earning playing time, and a spot in the starting lineup, wasn't guaranteed to Hutchison.

Junior wing Anthony Drmic was one of the best, and most competitive, players in the league as Hutchison had to earn his stripes by battling a veteran in practice every day as an underclassman. Forward James Webb III was another all-conference piece that was already in place for Hutchison to learn from. 

"By the time he got to Boise, there were a lot of strong guys to compete with. I think that brought him something positive. Things that he didn't have," Rice said. "Anthony Drmic is one of the fiercest competitors I've ever coached. Chandler got to go against him day-in, day-out as a freshman. I don't know if across the country, who had a tougher practice. It shapes who he is today."

When Drmic and Webb departed Boise State, Hutchison was ready to step up into a consistent double-figure scorer and go-to player before his junior season. Already putting in the work to become a more well-rounded wing, Hutchison set out to improve an inconsistent three-pointer that was never above 28 percent during his first two seasons with the Broncos.

The arrival of assistant coach Phil Beckner to Boise State was another huge part of Hutchison's personal development. An experienced coach who spent time developing Damian Lillard as an assistant at Weber State, Beckner also had NBA G-League coaching experience and trained NBA players. Beckner's work with Hutchison took the junior's game, and his jumper, to a new level during his final two seasons in college.

"I think the last two years there was a great jump. He got to work with Phil Beckner, one of our assistants, who has worked with Dame Lillard and a number of players. I think he's one of the best at player development. It was a lot of hours and a lot of time doing it. A lot of dedication," Rice said.

Hutchison saw his three-point percentage jump to 37 percent as a junior as he put up 17.4 points, 7.8 rebounds and 2.6 assists per game, helping lead the Broncos to an NIT appearance. Senior year was even stronger for Hutchison. Elevating to 20.0 points, 7.7 rebounds and 3.5 assists per game, Hutchison was named first-team all-conference while being named a top-10 national finalist for the Jerry West Award. 

"He led us in just about every category. And we had a good ballclub, too." Rice said. "He was a do-it-all player and he could do it at every position. He rebounded. He guarded big guys and small guys. Led the break. He's a great decision-maker with his feel."

Rice is also impressed that his star player was always coachable and easy to deal with away from the court. Hutchison earned his degree from Boise State, and even attended graduation in the midst of his pre-draft workouts in Chicago. Hutchison even flew straight back from his graduation and didn't miss his next pre-draft workout.

"He finishes. He got his degree and there's only two or three guys in the first round that got degrees and got it done. I mean, that's impressive," Rice said. "These guys that are elite-level players have so much demands on them with media and with the team and the workouts and all of these extra workouts. To get a degree while dealing with all of that is very impressive."

Hutchison has taken some time to find his footing in every level of basketball. Rice thinks playing around other talented, high-IQ players will help Hutchison's all-around game shine in the NBA. Rice in convinced that Hutchison's work ethic and versatility make him a great fit for the Bulls.

"That's what I love about him. I think he can fill a lot of different positions and a lot of different needs. Depending on what you need, night-in, night-out he can adjust his game and bring those things," Rice said.

"A great organization like the Bulls, he couldn't be more excited. It's a match made in heaven."