Within minutes of Kirk Hinrich's press conference introducing him as a member of the Wizards, it became clear why team president Ernie Grunfeld decided to acquire him in a trade last month.
For one, Grunfeld has, quite literally, coveted Hinrich since Hinrich entered the league. The Wizards president admitted that he scouted Hinrich extensively prior to the 2003 draft, when Grunfeld was still with the Bucks, and had him on his radar for his team's eighth pick. The Bulls ultimately selected Hinrich one pick before Milwaukee, but Grunfeld said today that if Hinrich had slipped, "it's safe to say" that the Bucks would have picked him.
For another, though, there's something about the way Hinrich seems to carry himself that could be a real asset to this team. Obviously, I'm getting this sense merely from a press conference, and it remains to be seen what happens once actual basketball is played. But I was very impressed with the way Hinrich answered questions. He seemed pretty shy, and does not seem like the kind of guy who likes hearing himself talk. In other words, he seemed like a guy who just wanted to play basketball. A professional, if you will.
"He's had an outstanding career. He brings it every night, he's a pro, he works very hard, he competes and he's very versatile," Grunfeld said. "Those are the kind of players we're looking for."
Hinrich's demeanor reminded me of something I wrote back during the year. When Antawn Jamison left for Cleveland, I wrote this post discussing what I felt was the difference between being a leader and being a pro. Jamison was a pro, but he was miscast as a leader because he tended to get frustrated when people didn't listen to him. The Wizards, at the time, had pros (Caron Butler, Jamison, Darius Songaila, Mike Miller, Randy Foye, etc.), but needed a leader, and Jamison wasn't the right guy.
But now, the tables have been turned. The Wizards have a leader, and his name is John Wall. It's pros that they need who will set a good example and shun the spotlight. Kirk Hinrich provides that.
You saw that on display whenever Hinrich was asked about the "mentoring" role he took with Derrick Rose, who, like Wall, was a fellow No. 1 overall pick in 2008. Hinrich seemed a bit embarrassed by the question and immediately deflected credit away from himself.
"When Derrick [Rose] came to the Bulls, I really feel like I got too much credit for [mentoring him]. He's just very good," Hinrich said, sighing before answering the question.
He added that if he did lead, it was mostly "by example," though he did sometimes talk to Rose and be more vocal when necessary. But when asked the same question after the press conference, Hinrich again deflected praise.
"I wouldn't say I was hands-off; I worked with him a lot. But everyone's like 'Oh, you mentored Derrick Rose,' and I feel like I got way too much credit for that," Hinrich said, smiling. "I always was talking to him and things like that, but he was very good."
One reporter tried one more time to get Hinrich to elaborate, asking what kinds of things he hopes to "impress" on Wall that he may have impressed on Rose as a rookie. Hinrich's response was simply to say that he doesn't know until he interacts with Wall more.
Deflecting credit and doing his work away from the cameras? That's one sign of being a real pro. That's the quality of Hinrich that Grunfeld must have seen when deciding to trade for him, and it's a quality that I think will ultimately help the team in some capacity going forward.
(More below the jump)
A couple other quick notes, and a follow-up point about Hinrich's salary:
- Hinirch admitted that he is more "comfortable" playing point guard and that it will be his "challenge" in training camp to figure out how he can best help this club. However, he also added that he is "definitely capable" of playing both guard positions.
- Hinrich said he was "blindsided" by the trade in June, even though he admitted his name has come up in many trade rumors recently, but is ready and excited for a "fresh start" on his career. In fact, he used the words "fresh start" at three different points during the proceedings.
- Grunfeld opened the proceedings with these remarks. "When you build, you also need some veterans, some leaders. Some players that have been through the wars before, and Kurt is definitely one of those players." I'm guessing the "Kurt" was an accidental slip, because he corrected himself whenever referring to Hinrich's name again. But it was still somewhat amusing to hear, because former Bulls coach Vinny Del Negro was notorious for calling Hinrich "Kurt" in press conferences last year.
- Grunfeld also said that Hinrich might play some small forward next year. "Occasionally, Kurt can also play some small forward, especially from the defensive standpoint," he said. Before you scoff, keep in mind that Hinrich did a nice job defending Paul Pierce for short stretches during the 2009 Playoffs.
- Speaking of defense, here's what Hinrich said when asked where his defensve mentality comes from. "Growing up, I loved to score, but more than anything, I hated to be scored on. When I got into the league, I realized that's how you win. All these teams that win NBA Championships are very good defensively and all around good teams."
- Hinrich called Gilbert Arenas one of the best players in the league, and added that he is "a good kid." I thought that was an interesting choice of words.
- Hinrich even uttered the "P" word at one point during the proceedings. "Whenever you get the number one pick, and you have John [Wall] and a young cast around him, there's a sense that you're rebuilding. But I feel like, when you have the talent, play the right way in the system and play hard every night, I think we can surprise a lot of people."