After Kirk Hinrich’s last stay on the injury list, I was one of the many probable fans who questioned whether or not he was worth keeping around or even thinking about. He missed another seven games merely three games after missing 10 of 11 games before that. Hinrich was more likely to be found on the injured reserve list than the rest of the banged up Bulls and I had given up hope on him making a impacting return. I’m not gonna say my doubts were completely wrong but I will say that Hinrich was a big reason why the Chicago Bulls beat the Miami Heat on Wednesday night.
When I saw Hinrich start on Wednesday against the Heat, I was a little worried and very skeptical. Then he proved that he was still worth paying attention to. He played 32 minutes and only scored seven points, but he helped solidify the win with a few big plays throughout the night. Now first of all, Hinrich hasn’t played more than 30 minutes since March 2nd. So the fact that he was on the floor for the majority of the game was big within itself. Now the key plays: the first and most obvious one was the foul he gave LeBron James on the fast break in the last minutes of the first quarter. Hinrich wrapped James up, foiling his plan to convert an easy bucket. The significance of this play is this: not only is Hinrich 60 pounds lighter than James and five inches shorter, but he was back pedaling while James was going full speed into the lane. On top of that was the nature of the foul: Hinrich literally wrapped him up and brought him down. This was a hard nosed foul and exactly the type of physical defense that stopped the Heat from continuing their win streak. Hinrich proved that despite the frequent injuries, he is still able to make the defensive stops no matter the physicality required.
The second play was his defensive board against Chris Bosh in the closing minutes of the fourth quarter. Not only was it a seven point game, but Bosh is a power forward who got handled by a point guard. Hinrich showed defensive tenacity and it all but ensured a victory for the Bulls.
Is it reasonable to assume Hinrich will be able to play like that every night? Probably not, but his ferocity not only defined the Bull’s strategy on Wednesday, it defined how they have approached defense all year long. Hinrich is 32 years old and could be considered a wildcard when it comes to injuries. No one can predict if he will remain healthy for the rest of the season or if he will miss the next week with another injury. Regardless, he will make an impact every time he’s on the floor.