By Michael Lee
Washington Post Staff Writer
Tuesday, July 27, 2010; D03
Kirk Hinrich and his wife, Jill, had just finished house hunting on Sunday when the two decided to explore their new surroundings. But the afternoon stroll along the monuments and later through Georgetown was cut short when the two looked at one another and the new Washington Wizards guard realized it was "unbelievably hot."
The couple wisely retreated to their air-conditioned hotel room only to discover that the timing couldn't have been better as the District was hit with a sweeping, violent storm. From their window, they spotted Boy Scouts fighting off wind and rain, tree branches blowing wildly, and probably had to wonder if they had really left behind the Windy City.
"We got inside about 15 minutes before it started going crazy," said Hinrich, whom the Wizards obtained with the 17th overall pick Kevin Seraphin from the Chicago Bulls in a deal that was agreed upon before the NBA draft.
Hinrich established a reputation as a feisty competitor, defensive specialist and unassuming leader in seven seasons with the Bulls, where he's averaged 13.4 points and 5.8 assists after being drafted seventh overall out of Kansas in 2003. But just as he couldn't predict the Sunday storm on his wife's first visit to his new town, Hinrich didn't expect to get traded to Washington this summer.
"It was a bit of a shock. I really didn't see it coming. I know the last couple of seasons my name has been in trade rumors. This one kind of hit us a little bit blindsided," Hinrich said at his introductory news conference, which came nearly three weeks after the trade became official, with the Wizards only sending back 2006 second-round pick Vladimir Veremeenko. "But you know I'm very appreciative of my time in Chicago. They gave me an opportunity to become a pro player and grow as one, but I think our family is very excited for a change. More importantly for myself, I'm thrilled to have a fresh start. I've been with Chicago a long time and we have a young, very talented team [in Washington] and I'm excited for the opportunity we have ahead of us."
The Bulls shipped Hinrich to Washington hoping to clear cap space in order to sign two marquee free agents this summer, a gamble that never took shape. The Wizards gladly accepted Hinrich -- who is owed $17 million over the next two seasons -- the draft pick and an extra $3 million that came with the deal.
But team president Ernie Grunfeld was especially elated to get a 29-year-old guard who has been a second-team all-defensive performer and was the starting point guard for the United States bronze medal team in the 2006 World Championships. Grunfeld admitted that he has wanted to acquire Hinrich since he was general manager for the Milwaukee Bucks. "He went the pick before and I think it's safe to say if he hadn't gone before us, he would've gone to us to Milwaukee," said Grunfeld, who settled for T.J. Ford in his last move before joining the Wizards later that summer. "We've been following his career and obviously, he hasn't disappointed yet. He brings it every night. He's been a winner his whole career in college and the pros. He's a very, very versatile player. He's an outstanding defender. He's played with a point guard who was the No. 1 pick and he's mentored him."
Hinrich has been credited with ushering along all-star point guard Derrick Rose, the No. 1 overall pick in 2008, and the Wizards are hoping that he can have a similar influence on their current top choice, John Wall. Wall has been compared favorably to Rose since both players spent one year playing for John Calipari, but Hinrich played down the effect he had on Rose.
"I wouldn't say I was hands off; I worked with him a lot, but everybody was like, 'Oh, you mentored Derrick Rose.' I feel like I got way too much credit for it," Hinrich said. "I talked to him and stuff like that, but he was very good. With my versatility, I was able to play alongside him and complement him pretty well, I feel."
When asked how that experience will help him adjust to playing with Wall, Hinrich said, "I'm excited to get out there and play with him. He's an excellent player, an excellent talent. We'll see how it goes."
Hinrich actually had a role in one of the greatest moments for the Wizards franchise in the past decade, when Gilbert Arenas buried a jumper over him and Tyson Chandler in Game 5 of a spirited first-round playoff series in Chicago in 2005. Arenas is expected to return to form an interesting back-court duo with Wall after getting suspended 50 games for bringing guns to the locker room. Grunfeld said all three guards should share time on the court together.
"Gilbert is one of the toughest guards in the league, the way he can shoot with his range and his speed," Hinrich said. "I've played against him a lot and I'm looking forward to being on the same side with him. My impressions of him is that he's a good kid and we're going to go out there and have a lot of fun."
Hinrich is joining a franchise undergoing a makeover, rebuilding from the ground up and moving from high-octane offensive machine to a rugged, blue-collar team. He said he fits into the new direction of the organization. "I feel like I'm 22 again. I'm just fired up, trying to prove myself and prove that the Wizards can be good," Hinrich said. "It's challenge and I'm excited for it. I feel like we definitely have the personnel to be a playoff team. More importantly, just from the outside, it feels like this town has had a hard time with all the stuff that's been going on. Hopefully, we just go out there, play hard for them, play some good basketball and it'll be good."