At his introductory press conference almost a month after he was traded to the Washington Wizards, Kirk Hinrich reiterated that he was “shocked” and “blindsided” by the pre-draft maneuver which sent him packing from his one and only NBA team, the Chicago Bulls.
Now, he’s turning those lemons into lemonade in the form of a proclaimed fresh start.
“It’s like coming into the league again. I’m very motivated and excited to play great basketball,” said Hinrich when speaking with the media after his official press appearance.
When asked if he had a chip on his shoulder after being dealt in a salary-clearing move which he also said he, “didn’t see coming,” Hinrich paused and carefully chose his words before saying, “Maybe a little bit, but more in a sense of just excited to have a fresh start.”
There goes that ‘fresh start’ thing again. And it’s likely easy for Kirk to say. He’s that type of selfless guy, as well as one who realizes that he really doesn’t have a choice but to keep a stiff upper lip, move on and hope to have some basketball fun.
“I feel like I’m 22 again, just excited and fired up to play to try to prove myself,” was another one of Hinrich’s positive quotes.
But where, exactly, he will fit in remains unseen.
“We feel that Kirk can play with John [Wall] in the back-court, as well as with Gilbert,” said team president Ernie Grunfeld. “I think we’re going to have a very good back-court with that three man rotation. Occasionally Kirk has also played some small forward, especially from the defensive standpoint.”
Small forward? A three-guard lineup? It looks to be both a teaching and an experimental assignment for head coach Flip Saunders.
“I probably feel more comfortable playing the one, it’s a little easier,” said Hinrich when asked about his potential role. “But I feel I’m very capable of playing both positions and I think starting in training camp that’s going to be a challenge, trying to figure out exactly where I fit in.”
One area where it’s understood that Hinrich will fit in is leadership. Grunfeld said that he is, “expected to provide a lot of leadership on our team.” And although this afternoon Grunfeld didn’t denote Hinrich as “gritty” like he’s done several times before, he did laud the guard as versatile; something it behooves good leaders to be.
Of course, most of those leadership capabilities are focused on the relationship that developed between Hinrich and 2008 No. 1 NBA Draft pick, Derrick Rose.
“When Derrick first came to the Bulls, I really felt like I got too much credit for that,” said Hinrich about Rose’s success, grossly selling himself down as having any type of significant affect. “He was just very good. With my versatility, I was able to play alongside him and complement him pretty well, I feel.”
“If Derrick learned stuff from me, I was talking to him and everything like that, but I think most of it was by example. That’s been the way I lead, but I became more vocal as I got to know my teammates better and as I’ve gotten older.”
“Leadership, you have to be one of those guys, a hard-worker who everyone respects. It’s about earning that and going out there and doing the right things, trying to play the right way,” Hinrich concluded.
Fresh starts are the prevailing theme around the Wizards organization, from bathroom urinals to former gun-toting pranksters. And Hinrich, who will turn 30 on January second, four days before Gilbert Arenas is set to turn 29, seems like the perfect embodiment to lead the way in throwing expectations out the door and prepare to have fun playing basketball.
But not to say Hinrich doesn’t have aspirations. “I feel like we definitely have the personnel to be a playoff team,” he said. And his words are likely more valid and less blown smoke. After the Miami Heat, Orlando Magic, Boston Celtics, Chicago Bulls, Atlanta Hawks and likely the Milwaukee Bucks, the final two playoff spots in the Eastern Conference seem up for grabs for any of the remaining nine teams.
And Hinrich on the aforementioned Mr. Arenas? “My impression of him is that he’s a good kid, and we’re going to go out there and play and have a lot of fun.”
Enough said. Wizards fans, get ready to drink some lemonade.
Watch the video to see if Hinrich, like other players who have come to D.C., will issue a basketball challenge to President Obama: