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Kirk Hinrich has same role with Bulls, different circumstances

Point guard Kirk Hinrich drew praise from Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau for how he directed team preseasopener. | Tom Cruze~Sun-Times

Point guard Kirk Hinrich drew praise from Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau for how he directed the team in the preseason opener. | Tom Cruze~Sun-Times

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All games at 7 p.m., except
Oct. 26 at 6 p.m.

Date Opponent TV

Oct. 9 Bulls 92, Grizzlies 88

Friday Cleveland* CSN

Sat. at Minnesota Ch. 9

Tuesday Milwaukee CSN

Oct. 19 Minnesota CSN

Oct. 23 Oklahoma City CSN+

Oct. 26 Indiana** CSN

* in Champaign
** in South Bend, Ind.

Season opener

Oct. 31 Sacramento Ch. 9

Updated: November 13, 2012 6:34AM

Outside of the uniform he’ll wear, there aren’t many similarities between the Bulls team Kirk Hinrich left after the 2009-10 season and the one with which he has spent the last 10 days of training camp.

There are few holdovers, and the makeup and mentality of this year’s Bulls squad is different. Of course, it starts with the philosophy coach Tom Thibodeau has ingrained in the organization.

“The most refreshing part is to just be a part of a team that is as unselfish as we are and the way we approach the game,” Hinrich said.

“But I’m excited with any role I have on a team like this. It’s one of those things that I’m just glad to be a part of.”

Fitting in has had as much to do with Hinrich’s personality and experience as anything else.

Hinrich has always been a cerebral, defensive-minded player. So aside from players such as Luol Deng and Taj Gibson, with whom he played in his previous stint with the Bulls, Hinrich has been able to mesh with teammates because he has played against so many of them during his 10-year career.

He already is connecting with backcourt mate Rip Hamilton, whom Hinrich guarded nearly every time one of his former teams faced Hamilton. The years of studying Hamilton have familiarized Hinrich with the situations in which he likes to get the ball, helping Hinrich as he assumes the role of the Bulls’ starting point guard.

“He’s a hard-nosed competitor,” Thibodeau said. “That he was here before helps a lot. He’s familiar with a lot of the players that we have. So that helps his transition, and he’s been in a lot of different situations. He can be a very good leader, and I just think it’s a good fit.”

Being a leader comes with Hinrich’s job description.

Thibodeau likes to push the ball in transition and get easy baskets before the opposing defense is set. As the point guard, Hinrich’s role becomes vital because he has to recognize and communicate to his teammates when they need to pull back and run sets.

He drew praise from Thibodeau in that regard. The coach complimented Hinrich on his ability to run the team in a 92-88 victory over the Memphis Grizzlies in the preseason opener.

Not surprisingly, Thibodeau has higher expectations for Hinrich, who will get a chance to improve his play when the Bulls face the Cleveland Cavaliers in preseason action Friday at Assembly Hall in Champaign.

It’s the first of a back-to-back that takes the Bulls to Minnesota on Saturday to play the Timberwolves.

“It’s the position I play,” Hinrich said. “I have to be able to run the team. It’s definitely a leadership role because it starts with me. The ball comes to me first to get us into what we do, and a lot of times I make a decision where the ball goes.”

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