The word Grit is defined as having “courage and resolve; strength of character” by the Oxford Dictionary. It is also a word commonly used by Chicago Bulls head coach Tom Thibodeau to describe his backup point guard, Kirk Hinrich. Thibs has ridden the “grit coattail” on Hinrich for three years now, praising the 11th year man out of Kansas, for all of his intangibles.
Hinrich’s reputation was that of a heady ball handler, who was a solid shooter with sound defense. He could run the offense on one end while holding his own on the opposite. There was a time when his play had value, and as time went on it became as a backup point guard. Hinrich had the heart, hustle and of course grit.
However, it appears as though Thibs has gone blind by that very same grit. While Hinrich was at one point a serviceable backup option during Derrick Rose’s two year absence, that reliability is no more. The regression we’ve seen thus far this season from Hinrich is a sight for sore eyes, as he’s become more of a liability, when on the court for the Bulls.
We could sit here and go through various statistics about the play of Hinrich this season, like his field goal percentage, 38.2%, PER of 7.8 (league average is 15), or even his Box Plus/Minus which is -2.1. But while stats tell part of the story, they don’t provide the entirety.
Where he was once a sound defender, Hinrich has now become a turnstile on that side of the ball for the Bulls. His lateral quickness, agility and ability to stay in front of defenders and navigate through screens has all but faded. Too many times Hinrich has gotten caught up in defending the pick-and-roll, misjudging the direction of the screen, as well as which direction the ball handler is pursuing. Even more, Hinrich’s help-side defense has been less than desired for. As he’s been caught numerous times out of position, losing his man or being late on rotations, hindering everything the Bulls want to accomplish.
On the opposite end of the spectrum, Hinrich’s shot has been lost into the abyss, with seemingly no signs of recovery. On catch and shoot opportunities, which account for 40.8% of his field goals, is shooting 36.8%, while on pull-ups, accounting for 34.2% of his field goals, is converting on an even worse, 33.7%. There have been times, especially during Sunday’s game against Miami, where Hinrich’s shots just haven’t come close to sailing through the net.
His decision making offensively, while in previous years has been fairly solid, instead are porous, the shot selection and passing have at times, been head-numbing. Then there are the small plays, the signs of regression. Dribbling the ball off the foot or leg out of bounds, an inability to grasp a rebound resulting in another possession for the opponent. The missed wide open layups.
It’s all been too much this season as it’s at a tipping point.
At 27.3 minutes per game, Hinrich is seeing roughly 20 more minutes than he probably should be at this juncture. Tom Thibodeau has players more than capable of filling in Hinrich’s minutes, with Aaron Brooks, Tony Snell, Mike Dunleavy Jr., and possibly Doug McDermott. All four have the ability to give the Bulls more on the floor in terms of production, quality of play and reliability.
The Bulls are in the midst of a slump, and Hinrich’s performance has only made matters worse. He’s not the lone factor, as there are many influences as to why the Bulls are currently experiencing a drought in performance. But, if the Bulls want a starting point as to begin looking like the team everyone thought they’d be, Thibs will need to take off the blinders, and wipe away the grit.
Twitter – Tyler_Pleiss