When Atlanta Hawks guard Kirk Hinrich arrived in the visitor’s locker room at Verizon Center on Saturday, the former Wizard had some presents nestled in his stall: A picture of him clumsily attempting to do “the Dougie” and a Virginia Commonwealth T-shirt hanging next to his jersey. Hinrich reached back to grab the T-shirt, shook his head and said, “I’m still trying to figure out who’s responsible for that.”
Wizards Coach Flip Saunders had assumed credit a few minutes before, laughing at the light-hearted welcome back.
“We had a little bit of fun with him,” Saunders said. “Just a little bit of reminder of what VCU did to Kansas. We’re not going to just let him off lightly. All kinds of little things to make him feel at home.”
The Wizards already gave Hinrich what he really wanted -- an opportunity to play in the postseason -- when they dealt him to the Hawks before the trade deadline. Although the Hawks entered the game on a three-game losing streak and were just 10-12 since acquiring Hinrich, they have had the fifth seed in the Eastern Conference locked up for several months. They have also reached the second round the past two years.
Hinrich found out that he was traded for Mike Bibby, Jordan Crawford, Maurice Evans and a 2011 first-round pick at halftime of the Wizards’ loss to Philadelphia on Feb. 23. “It was kind of crazy. I was just excited for the opportunity to come in here and have a chance to play in the playoffs,” said Hinrich, who was traded for the second time in eight months. “To play a season and miss out on that, I hate it. I feel like that’s what it’s all about. That’s what everybody plays for.
“It’s been an adjustment, but everybody has been great, trying to bring me along,” Hinrich said of the Hawks. “I’m excited to be in the playoffs.”
Hinrich has assumed the starting point guard job with the Hawks, but his production in Atlanta is almost identical to what he did in Washington. He holds no hard feelings against the Wizards and said he enjoyed his time with the team.
“It was tough,” Hinrich said. “ As hard as the losses were, I still enjoyed going out and having the opportunity to play. go out there and competing. At the end of the night, we were losing a lot, made it tough, but I still enjoyed playing the organization was great to me. I like my teammates, everything like that.”
Saunders lauded Hinrich for his professionalism through a difficult season. “He had great work ethic, did everything we always asked, and even if he was frustrated, he never let that frustration affect how he prepared or his commitment to the team,” he said.
Saunders added that he thinks that Hinrich could be a difference-maker for the Hawks in the postseason. “As they move on, no matter who they play, he’s going to give him toughness. He’s one of those guys you don’t like playing against. So I think he’ll help them a lot, with his perimeter defense,” Saunders said.
John Wall credited Hinrich for assisting him through his first few months in the league, but Hinrich said he has noticed that Wall has truly blossomed since the trade. I feel like he’s continuing what he had going while I was there. Especially the last month or so, I haven’t been there, he really turned the corner in his approach. Just playing his game and not worrying about anything else. I think at first it was a little hard for him. It seemed like something really clicked for him there.”
Having Wall around helped Hinrich as well. When the Hawks played Chicago for the first time, his teammates formed a circle around Hinrich and forced him to dance. The rhythmically-challenged Hinrich reached back to the only move he partially knew, the move that Wall used to introduce himself to home fans at Verizon Center, the Dougie.
Wall took notice of Hinrich whipping his hand behind his head, joking with his teammates the next day. When asked about his dance moves, Hinrich shook his head. “My teammates put me on the spot,” Hinrich said. “I didn’t know what to do.”