Hinrich returns; Bulls add sharpshooting Belinelli


Jul 24

When the Bulls and Gar Forman entered the offseason, their top priority was to sign a combo guard who could play both the point guard and shooting guard positions, the general manager acknowledged on Tuesday at the Berto Center.

Enter Kirk Hinrich, whose signing with the team became official on Monday.

“Obviously, Kirk is a proven veteran in this league,” said Forman of Hinrich, who returns as the Bulls all-time leader in three-point field goals made and attempted, as well as ranking fourth in assists and steals. “He knows our organization; he knows his teammates. We just think it’s going to be a perfect fit for us—not only this coming year, but into the future.”

Hinrich spent his first seven seasons in Chicago and left for Washington via a draft night trade in 2010. Now, the 31-year old is happy to be back to a place he has considered home since being drafted by the Bulls seventh overall in 2003.

“My family and I are just very excited to be back in the Bulls family,” Hinrich said. “I’ve kept my home here in the offseason. It kind of feels like I left, but it really hasn’t. I’m very excited. Obviously, I know a lot of the guys and I’m just looking forward to the opportunity.”

Hinrich also considered the Milwaukee Bucks, but in the end, there were too many factors that swayed him back to the Bulls. Playing for Tom Thibodeau was one of them, he explained.

“Watching the team play under Coach Thibodeau the last couple of years, I felt like it was the best fit,” Hinrich said. “I know a lot of the core guys, and I feel like it will be a pretty easy transition.”

Hinrich and Thibodeau met on a few occasions leading up to Hinrich’s return and got a feel for what each other represented on the basketball floor. Hinrich was impressed, but his admiration for Thibodeau was in place before the process of free agency began.

“It was evident by watching the team play how good of a coach he is,” Hinrich said of Thibodeau.

Thibodeau will call on Hinrich, in part, to help offset playing without Derrick Rose while he recovers from a knee injury. And while playing without the former NBA MVP is far from an ideal situation, Hinrich believes good things are still in store for the Bulls.

“When we’re completely healthy, we’re a very, very good team,” said Hinrich, who also spoke with Derrick Rose and Joakim Noah prior to signing. “As of right now, I feel like nobody’s given us much of a chance. Everybody has kind of counted us out since Derrick’s been out, probably deservedly so because he’s one of the top players in this league. But I have a lot of confidence in the guys we have here. I’m real familiar with them. We’re going to have a chance to win a lot of games by the way we defend and the way we play at both ends.”

Hinrich has dealt with a few health issues over the last two seasons, missing time with hamstring and shoulder injuries, but he’s optimistic those are things of the past.

“This offseason, I’ve been working really hard,” said Hinrich, who has posted averages of 12.5 points, 5.4 assists, 3.2 rebounds and 1.21 steals in 33.0 minutes per game over 634 career games. “I haven’t really felt any ill effects. So hopefully, knock on wood, I’m going to stay healthy and be a contributor to a very good team.”

In another move, the Bulls announced the signing of Marco Belinelli, a veteran of five seasons who should help fill the shoes of Kyle Korver.

“Marco is a guy that we’ve had our eye on for several years and have tried to acquire in the past,” said Forman of Belinelli. “We think he’s going to be a real asset for the Chicago Bulls. If you look at Marco’s career, each and every year he has shown steady improvement. We think at 26 years old, there’s still a lot of upside to his game.”

Belinelli, a native of Bologna, Italy, is known for his sharpshooting from behind the arc. He owns a 39.3 three-point shooting percentage and comes off a season with the New Orleans Hornets in which he averaged career highs in points (11.8), rebounds (2.6) and minutes (29.8). He said he chose the Bulls because it he believes this situation gives him the best chance at winning.

“I was a free agent after the season and when the Bulls called me, I was so happy because Chicago is a team that maybe can win the championship and I can play with some stars like Derrick Rose,” Belinelli said. “This is the best opportunity for me to grow up and maybe try to win a championship.”

The 6-5, 195-pounder was drafted by the Golden State Warriors 18th overall in the first round of the 2007 NBA Draft. He also talked with the Cleveland Cavaliers, Boston Celtics and Los Angeles Clippers before ultimately deciding on coming to Chicago.

“I’m a three-point shooter, but I try to be better in every kind of my game,” said Belinelli of what he brings to the table. “I just want to play a pick-and-roll game and I want to go in and create something for my teammates. But especially, I think I’m a shooter.”

Audio—Kirk Hinrich meets the media at the Berto Center (07.24.2012):

Audio—Marco Belinelli meets the media at the Berto Center (07.24.2012):

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