#WizardsRank: Kirk Hinrich, No. 9: One Year With the Blues
Truth About It.net turns a whole five years old at the end of October, which is right about now.
Hard to believe/interesting. Nonetheless, over the life of the site from the 2007-08 season to 2011-12, we’ve seen/lived/suffered through 131 wins, 263 losses, four coaches, two owners, one GM/team president, one Phil Chenier mustache removal, and 56 total players (amazingly, 48 players over the last three seasons).
You may have heard of ESPN’s #NBArank project, now in year two. Now hear of #WizardsRank, where we rank each of those 56 players during Truth About It.net’s five-year run. TAI anonymously polled 27 members of the Wizards pixel establishment — from mainstream media to new media, TAI staffers included, to a few pixel consumers (readers of the site) — and got 17 responses.
Participants were given the full list of 56 in alphabetical order, and included for each player were total games, minutes, PER (player efficiency rating), and WS/48 (win-shares per 48 minutes) only from the last five seasons. Participants were asked to rate each player on the scale of 1-to-10 according to this criteria: on court performance; off court performance; intangibles; and own personal memory. Yes, this is totally subjective, but relatively collective.
#WizardsRank Nos. 56 to 10 have been posted and links can be found at the bottom of this post. -Kyle W.
5.76 out of 10
(48 games, 1,471 minutes, 13.5 PER, .076 WS/48)
The man with the meanest two-step east of El Paso was at the free throw line waiting to get the ball back from referee Pat Fraher. Dwyane Wade had been fouled by Andray Blatche and made his first free throw to tie the game at 94. There were 7.9 seconds left in the game.
It was December 18, 2010. Earlier that day, the Washington Wizards had traded Gilbert Arenas to the Orlando Magic for Rashard Lewis. Rumors that Arenas would be shipped out of town had been whispered for weeks, and it had finally happened. “One of the best backcourts in the NBA” was torn apart in the name of rebuilding. A withdrawn, hirsute Arenas likely forced himself out of D.C.; he was just happy to be on a playoff team again.
Call it curtains on Abe Pollin’s basketball empire and, in a way, the official start of the John Wall era.
But not so fast. No. 1 overall pick John Wall was out for the third straight game with knee tendinitis, so Kirk Hinrich would get the start at the point against the powerhouse Miami Heat alongside Al Thornton, Nick Young, Andray Blatche, and JaVale McGee. Rashard Lewis didn’t arrive in time to play in his new digs, the Verizon Center in downtown Washington, D.C. President Barack Obama didn’t make it to the game, either; he cancelled on LeBron James and Miami at the last minute.
But who could blame the President? The Wizards had won just six games all season. They had lost 10 of their last 11 and were giving up almost 106 points per game. Over that same 11-game span, the Heat, the best defensive team in basketball, were allowing just 86 points per game. In spite of all this, the Wizards somehow found themselves tied with the Heat’s basketballing talents. In crunch time.
The turning point in the contest happened before Wade stepped behind the charity stripe with 7.9 seconds to play… Blatche had fouled Chris Bosh behind the top of the arc with; Bosh converted on his first and third attempt to bring the trailing Heat within two, 91-93. On the inbounds pass, Blatche targeted Nick Young, but the shooting guard bobbled the ball. Young twisted, turned and fell to floor in the left corner, hoping to recover the rock, but fouled James Jones in the process. The Wiz were in the penalty; Jones made both shots to tie the game at 93.
Hinrich earned a pair of free throws on the ensuing possession. After bringing in an off-target inbounds pass from Josh Howard, Hinrich tiptoed the sideline near the Heat hoop before being bumped out of bounds by Mario Chalmers. The clock stopped again, 12.6 seconds to play. Hinrich’s first attempt rattled out—it was his only miss from the line that game—but he made the second to go 5-for-6 for the night.
Moments later, on the other end of the floor, the boos from Wizards fans were drowned out by cheers from Heat fans in attendance. Wade had made his second of two free throws off the back iron with just under eight seconds to go. The Wizards now trailed, 94-95, and were without timeouts.
“And for Miami, their first lead since early in the third quarter when they were up 58-57,” Steve Buckhantz narrated on the television broadcast. The Heat’s biggest lead all game was five points.
Hinrich grabbed what would be the final inbounds pass of the game and raced up the floor.
Josh Howard—who was back in action after nine months on a stationary bicycle—sealed off Mario Chalmers near midcourt, giving Hinrich a lane to the basket as he crossed the timeline. Hinrich saw the opportunity, planted his feet in the paint and went for the win. Bosh and James challenged his right-handed attempt at the rim. Airball. Ballgame.
That close to new beginnings. That close to late-game heroics. That’s so Wizards.
“The referees have a tough job. I felt like I was fouled,” Hinrich said after the game in the locker room, as always, with a hint of exasperation. “I saw the replay and thought it was an obvious foul. I don’t know what to say. […] We probably played as hard as we have all year. I felt we should have won the game, and to cough it up like that, it’s hard to swallow for sure.”
In the other locker room, the league’s reigning MVP, LeBron James, gave his take on the final play.
“It’s the law of verticality,” James said. “He went straight up; I went straight up. The Miami Heat getting a break? I don’t think so.”
Was it a foul? Possibly; I couldn’t quite tell from my spot at a media table at the top of the Verizon Center, but it seemed like much of the contact came after the ball left Hinrich’s hand. “Law of verticality” be damned!
There was nothing particularly remarkable about this game (besides the importance thrust upon it as the first game without Gilbert Arenas since October of 2003 and the Wizards beating the 12-point spread). The Heat won their ninth game out of 10 against the Wizards, despite turning the ball over more often, dishing out less assists, and scoring fewer fast break points. LeBron James, Wade and Bosh combined for 72 of theit team’s 95 points. The Wiz were supposed to be fodder. The “unbeatable Heat” were just that.
Now, there’s nothing particularly remarkable about Kirk Hinrich’s game, either, but he almost defeated the NBA’s villains at the moment they appeared most threatening. I remember Hinrich’s performance in this Atlantic Division matchup. He played well in front of the Wizards’ first sellout crowd of the year (but Leonsis did not do the ‘Dougie’ as promised). He double-doubled with 13 points and 12 assists while adding six rebounds (and five of Washington’s 13 turnovers).
Nick Young, who Ernie Grunfeld “singled out before the game” as the player most likely to benefit from the Arenas-Lewis trade, did his duties, too. Young dropped 30 points in going 13-for-23 from the field. There were occasions that 2010-11 season when Hinrich and Young produced like they did against the Heat. Like in their 109-94 win over the Toronto Raptors two days earlier. As remembered by friend of Truth About It.net Beckley Mason:
“Young got hot from the field and ended with 20 efficient points on 15 shots to go with a career high six rebounds and Hinrich had a quiet double double with 13 points and 12 assists. Yet watching the two players for the entire game, what jumped out at me was how little, in comparison to Hinrich, Nick Young seemed to feel and understand the game. The difference was in their levels of awareness.
Hinrich kept a consistent stream of chatter going the entire game, routinely making the hard rotation, the sharp pass, and the clever read. He knew when to go over screens and when to slide under, depending on his defensive assignment, and used his length and positioning to shut off penetration. Meanwhile, Young was victimized by the Raptor’s screening and was caught on the wrong side of his man on numerous occasions. The Wizards won the game by 15 points, but they were minus-6 for the 30 minutes Young was on the court—and that’s with an efficient offensive output from the third year player. Hinrich ended plus-20 in no small part because his awareness, or what’s sometimes called ‘basketball IQ,’ buoyed the play of his teammates.
This isn’t to say Hinrich is some choir boy who just wants to be the best he can–I don’t want to turn in him into a ‘hard working white guy’ stereotype. He wasn’t much of a mentor to Rose in Chicago*, and doesn’t seem particularly interested in making himself a knock down three point shooter—something the Wizards need him to be. It’s just that he knows where to be on both ends of the court and is invested, at least during games, in making his teammates better.”
Hinrich, to a point, represented the Wizards that team management wanted to be. He was a no-nonsense player who led by example. He started 29 out of a possible 48 games for the Wiz, earned his paycheck on defense, could play two positions (maybe three in a bind), and knocked down his mid-range jumper. During Hinrich’s one-year stint in the nation’s capital, he averaged 11.1 points (.452 from the field, .384 from 3-point range), 4.4 assists (to 1.8 turnovers) and 2.7 rebounds in 30.6 minutes per game. His PER of 13.5 during the 2010-11 season was the fifth-best mark in his career.
Even in his best performances, the Heat game on December 18th game among them, Hinrich couldn’t save the Wizards team that was. But he played his part. And Ted Leonsis still views his addition, and later subtraction, as one of the best personnel decisions during his time as owner.
“I don’t think our front office is given enough credit for that series of trades for Kirk Hinrich, where we turned him into Kevin Seraphin, Jordan Crawford and Chris Singleton,” Leonsis wrote on his blog earlier this summer. “We also received cash from Chicago and we used it to buy out Mike Bibby as part of the trade with Atlanta. A very well thought out series of moves that were very central to our rebuild plan of amassing picks and prospects, getting much younger and creating upside for our team quickly.
“One vet player turned into three first-round picks—who all play in our lineup—all made in one season.”
Hinrich is back in Chicago today with a chance to start in place of Rose, another game-changing point guard who is recovering from injury. The Wizards, again without John Wall (though it should be noted he played in all 66 games last season), have their first shot at the post-season in half a decade.
Thank you, Kirk. And we’re sorry.
—John Converse Townsend (@JohnCTownsend)
An ode to Kirk Hinrich by Kyle Weidie
Kirk, around D.C.
No. 56: Cedric Jackson; No. 55: Mike Bibby; No. 54: Paul Davis; No. 53: Edwin Ubiles; No. 52: Quinton Ross.
No. 51: Mike Wilks; No. 50: Mike Harris; No. 49: Javaris Crittenton; No. 48: Dee Brown; No. 47: Morris Almond.
No. 46: Larry Owens; No. 45: Mustafa Shakur; No. 44: Brian Cook; No. 43: Hamady N’diaye; No. 42: Rashard Lewis.
No. 41: Hilton Armstrong; No. 40: Oleksiy Pecherov; No. 39: Mike James; No. 38: Fabricio Oberto; No. 37: Ronny Turiaf.
No. 36: Lester Hudson; No. 35: Yi Jianlian; No. 34: Juan Dixon; No. 33: Josh Howard; No. 32: Chris Singleton.
No. 31: Al Thornton; No. 30: Shelvin Mack; No. 29: Mo Evans; No. 28: Mike Miller; No. 27: Alonzo Gee.
No. 26: Randy Foye; No. 25: Dominic McGuire; No. 24: Andray Blatche; No. 23: Earl Boykins; No. 22: Roger Mason.
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