How does someone go from averaging 16.6 points 6.3 assists 1.2 steals 3.4 rebounds, being named to the All Defensive Second Team and after helping the USA win the bronze in the World Championships, competing for a spot on what would later be known as the "Redeem" Team to becoming an after thought?
That is exactly what has happened to Kirk Hinrich and I think I know the reason behind the drop. It is actually very simple.
For all except the first 16 games of Kirk's rookie season, Scott Skiles was his head coach for the first 4 1/4 seasons of his career. During those four season Capt Kirk had improved.
Rookie season he averaged 12 points, a career high 6.8 assists, 3.4 rebounds, 1.3 assists while shooting 38.6% from the field 39% from 3 point land and 80.4 % from the free throw line while playing along the likes of Eddy Curry, Tyson Chandler and Jamal Crawford. He started 66 of the 76 games he played in. He also was named to the all rookie first team.
During his sophomore year he was joined by Ben Gordon, Chris Duhon, Luol Deng and Andres Nocioni and he continued to improve. His scoring rose to 15.7 while he increased his steals (1.6, career high) and rebounds (3.9, career high) his assists slightly dropped to 6.4 a game. He started all 77 games he appeared in and helped the Bulls reach the playoffs for the first time with Jordan retired. His shooting numbers stayed pretty close to his rookie numbers, he improved his overall shooting by 1% while his 3 point shooting dropped 4.5%. In the playoffs that year he averaged 21 points 5.8 assists 2 steals in a 6 game series lose to the Washington Wizards.
In his third season he improved again slighting while his major stats stayed close to what he had done the year before his shooting improved. His overall field goal % went up to 41.8% while he shot 37% from behind the line and 81% from the chariety strip. He again started all the games he appeared in which was 81 and again helped lead the team to another first round defeat this time to the eventual champion Miami Heat. They again lost in 6 games and Kirk was even better then the year before, scoring 20 and dishing out 7.7 assists.
During the off season he helped the US bring home the bronze in the World Championships playing along side Wade, Carmelo and Lebron, all who were members of the same 2003 draft class.
The 2006-2007 season was by far Hinrich's best season. I went over his stat line at the beginning of the article which included his career high of 16.6 points per game while improving his shooting. He shot 44.8% overall with 41.5% from beyond the arc and83.5 from the free throw line. For the third straight season he helped lead the club to the playoffs and they made it to the second round after sweeping the defending champs before losing to the rival Pistons in 6 games. Kirk did not make the same type of impact during the playoffs averaging only 12 points but kept his assist numbers up(7.5).
After the season Hinrich pulled his name out of consideration for the National team which was getting ready to compete in the Tournament of Americas so he could focus on his upcoming wedding.
Then came the 2007-2008 season when everything went to hell. During the off season Kirk received a contract extension while several of his teammates were mentioned in trade talks. The season started very poorly and on Christmas Eve with a record of 9-16 coach Scott Skiles was fired. Rumor had it that Skiles actually tried to quit almost a month earlier but then GM John Paxson talked him into staying.
Without Skiles the team got selfish with Ben Gordon and Luol Deng both aiming for big contract extensions after not being traded. Kirk's number dropped to 11 points and 6 assists a game while his field goal % dropped 4% and his 3 point % dropped to a career low 35%. His minutes also dropped about 4 minutes a night to 31.
Last year and this year Kirk has battled injuries as well as the arrival of #1 overall pick and hometown kid Derrick Rose who won the rookie of the year. Last year playing only in 51 games all but 4 with him coming off the bench he averaged career lows in points (9.9), assists (3.9) and minutes (26.3) while backing up both Rose and Ben Gordon. His shooting numbers did rebound a bit from the season before almost 43% from the field and 41% from beyond the arc. This season Kirk started the season again on the bench backing up Rose as well as shooting guard John Salmons until he the returned from injury in December and replaced Salmons in the starting lineup. His scoring and assists have gone up this year as his starts and minutes played have gone up but he has continued to struggle shooting. He is currently shooting 35% from 3 point land 40% from the field and a shockingly career low 73% from the free throw line which is a full 10% lower then his career high which he had back in 2006-2007.
So what happened? What caused a very promising young guard's play to drop?
Was it the money?
Getting married and starting a family?
Was it the coaching?
Could it be all of the above or maybe was he just an overachiever?
It is interesting looking that Kirk had a lot happen after the 06-07 season. He got married, withdrew from the National team, got paid, started a family and lost a coach who was a big fan of his.
Kirk has played 7 seasons for the Bulls after being the 7th pick back in 2003. He has become the franchise leader in 3-pointers made during that time and had become known as a glue guy. Coming off that 06-07 season Kirk was probably the best American born white player in the game. I know that really isn't saying much but still it does show how far he is fallen.
Does Kirk need a change of scenery? Look at what Skiles has done for Salmons.
Maybe he would be better off going to a team where he can finally be teamed with a big guard so he doesn't have to always guard the other teams best guard. Kirk seemed to be on his way to becoming a star in the league and now he seems to be going the way of being a third guard and being that piece that title contenders look for.
I don't know for sure what has happened to explain the drop off but I think it might have a lot to do with Skiles departure and it seems like the number back that up.
If he does stay in Chicago is he on his way to becoming the next Pax? Maybe