The 2014-15 season was miserable for Bulls fans in many ways. It's difficult just to write that. I'm not over it.
Without going into detail as to why it was so dire - which I am sure we are all across anyway after several weeks of reflection - this season was particularly hard for me in a weird, strange and perhaps not so obvious way.
As an unabashed Kirk Hinrich fan, you could consistently find me defending Hinrich against those that opposed him. A staunch supporter for years, unfortunately, I can’t do it anymore. I give in.
Whilst many arrived at this point years ago, even prior to Kirk’s second tenure as a Bull, I remained loyal to one of my favourite Bulls of all time, and with good reason. As a stand in for Derrick Rose in 2012-13, a role in which he was miscast and played for too long, he brought a balance to the point guard position that was required, whilst being asked to do far more than what he could most likely handle, all with the tenacity and no nonsense approach that I had grown to love and respect Hinrich for. It also helped that his flaws would be adequately off set by Nate Robinson and D.J. Augustin in consecutive seasons. So was the position I took, anyway.
That was then. Though in a minority, I was comfortable in my stance. I would tell myself that Hinrich was the Bulls equivalent of Mel Gibson. Sure, he hadn’t done anything of note for years, and yes, he has gone a little crazy and lost many supporters, but just like Mel will forever have Mad Max and the Lethal Weapon franchise as part of his resumé, Hinrich would always hold a special place in my heart for what he was able to do for this franchise, particularly in the mid 2000s, with the Baby Bulls era still remaining one of the best moments in the recent history of our beloved Bulls.
So, at what point did a Hinrich super fan finally decide it was time to join the dark side?
Was it the horrendous foul on the Monta Ellis jump shot with the Bulls up three against the Mavericks in the dying seconds, which ultimately forced over-time?
Maybe it was Tom Thibodeau consistently finding a way to find minutes for Hinrich, even when younger, more athletic, and developing options were waiting for their opportunity, began resigning to the fact that they were never going to get off the bench?
Perhaps it was the 0 points, 0 assists and 0 rebounds effort in Game 6 against the Cavaliers in the 2015 playoffs, which of course Thibodeau still found a way to justify 20 minutes to the 34-year old?
Or maybe this?
There may not be a singular moment, more so a culmination of frustrating circumstances that kept building, waiting for the opportune moment to break a man.
Here is a random question for you. What do Kirk Hinrich and Kobe Bryant have in common?
No, the answer is not that they were my dream backcourt combination at one point in my teenage life, though that is a true story, one I will share with you some other time. Or not.
So, what do these two heroes of my early days as an NBA fan have in common?
They’re both going to be entering their last season of NBA basketball, collecting contracts that neither is worth, as they gallivant around the cities of the league, one last time.
Whilst Hinrich’s 2015-16 contract is miniscule relative to Bryant’s huge $25 million expiring, unlike Bryant, Hinrich has a player option within his deal which can invoke an additional year, to which he will be owed $2.8m, a figure his play in the 2015 NBA season surely cannot justify.
Assuming Hinrich uses his player option and opts into the final year of his contract, he will be entering his 13th NBA season as a 34-year old guard who is fresh off a season where he registered career lows in many major statistical categories.
With the Golden State Warriors being crowned the NBA champion for 2014-15 season, these flamboyant Warriors were able to win playing a game style which has coined the term ‘position-less basketball’. As an aging guard, who seemingly has lost a step to handle opposing point guards whilst also being far too undersized to routinely match up against shooting guards, position-less basketball has taken on a new meaning for Hinrich and the Bulls.
The Chicago Bulls are long into their off-season, which of course went off with a bang with the ‘dismissal’ of coach Thibodeau, and of course the unexpected hiring of former Bull, Fred Hoiberg.
If that wasn’t enough, recent reports suggest that the Jimmy Butler contract situation may not be as easy and over the line as once thought. Do we really need any more drama? Are we sure Carmelo Anthony isn’t a free agent again? I am sure he would love to get involved in the mayhem.
Whilst the Hinrich situation won’t reach the epic proportions that the coaching saga did, and now perhaps the Butler situation threatens to do, it’s impact will still have the Bulls potentially carrying another bad contract into the 2015-16 season.
Will Hinrich’s contract ‘force’ management into not filling holes on the wing due to Kirk holding a roster spot, whilst of course being a Paxson favourite?
With Hinrich likely opting in and Butler chasing huge dollars that will push the Bulls all the way to the tax line, will this lead to roster cuts and changes elsewhere?
Can the existence of Hinrich on the roster force the Bulls to drop off potential depth players such as E’Twaun Moore to save on funds that will be headed Jimmy Butler’s way?
Will a role be defined for Hinrich within the rotation simply because he will be hanging around the Advocate Center for one more season, with no depth added to the squad outside of minimum contracts?
To me, these are all pertinent questions. When coupled with his dwindling play, I have no option now but to say, “Thanks for the memories, Kirk. Have you ever thought about a management role? How about accepting a position in a front office? Want to grab a bite and have a Lethal Weapon marathon? Please?”.
Mark Karantzoulis is a new addition to Bulls Confidential. Hailing from Australia, Mark is an NBA addict who uses RealGM as his primary outlet to unleash the furious feelings of not having anyone to talk to about basketball. Thus, I figured he might as well join the team to satisfy his longing needs of talking Bulls hoops non-stop, and to frankly safe his life from boredom. Or at least get him away from watching Jean Claude Van Damme movies all day long. You can follow Mark and his ramblings on Twitter @MarkK_247, but prepare for weirdness.
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