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Hinrich relieved to join Hawks

Updated: September 24, 2012 6:25AM

ATLANTA — Kirk Hinrich has so much going on these days, he wasn’t dwelling on lining up against his former teammates Wednesday night. And yet, Hinrich admitted there was an emotional side, however fleeting, to playing the Bulls.

“It’s a little different, I guess, because I had really good relationships with all those guys,’’ said Hinrich, who spent the last seven years in Chicago before departing. “Other than that, it’s just another game. I’m trying to get acclimated here. I’m trying to focus on that.’’

Hinrich, who has been slowed by a calf injury, made his first start in his three games with the Hawks. He made one three-pointer for his only points of the game. He was 1-for-5 from the floor in 31:28.

Hinrich was acquired from Washington on Feb. 23 in a multiplayer deal that sent Mike Bibby to the Wizards.

Just like that, he has gone from a team playing out the string to a team that’s tracking for the No. 5 seed in the Eastern Conference playoffs. Now all he has to do is get healthy and learn a new system with a talented group of teammates.

“It’s a great feeling,’’ Hinrich said. “It was getting to be a very long year in D.C. Everybody was great to me there, but to come to a team like this that’s in the playoff hunt, it’s very exciting.’’

Hinrich on Rose

Even though he saw Derrick Rose’s potential in the two years they were teammates, Hinrich seems as dazzled by Rose as the rest of the NBA world.

“I don’t want to say I’m surprised,’’ Hinrich said, “but watching him, you just shake your head sometimes. It’s unbelievable how well he’s playing.’’

The MVP chants started early in Phillips Arena. Another surprisingly strong Bulls road crowd saluted Rose’s off-balance drive to the basket that helped the team grab a 14-0 lead.

No Butler yet

All indications are that 6-7 swingman Rasual Butler, whose contract was bought out by the Los Angeles Clippers, will sign with the Bulls once he clears waivers. But there’s no deal yet.

“There’s nothing for me to say until they’re ready to make an announcement,’’ coach Tom Thibodeau said. “We just want to make sure that whoever that person may be, they fit well with our group.’’

Andy Miller, Butler’s agent, told that Butler plans to sign with the Bulls when he clears waivers. A career 36 percent three-point shooter, Butler has averaged 8.6 points in 598 games.

Noah’s arc

Skeptics wondered if Joakim Noah had the all-around tools, including the shot trajectory, to be successful in the NBA.

Al Horford, who played on two NCAA national championship teams (in 2006 and ’07) with Noah at Florida, was not among them.

“I knew he was going to be successful,’’ said Horford, the Hawks’ All-Star center who scored 31 against the Bulls. “I knew that Corey [Brewer] was going to make it, too. We all were very focused on making it to this level.’’

They have adjusted to playing against each other, but still have to fight through some mixed emotion.

“It was a little weird the first few years,’’ Horford said. “It’s different, but we know we have to go out there and do our jobs.’’

Noah, who keeps in touch with Horford through the occasional text message, is happy for Horford, who has become an Atlanta fixture.

“Al’s somebody I shared a lot of great times in my life with,’’ Noah said. “He’s a very professional guy, a very competitive guy who has really improved each year. And being in Atlanta the last couple of days, I realize how much love he gets here. It’s very well deserved.’’

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