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Sam Smith: Hinrich injury could put move on hold

Losing Chicago’s second “most valuable asset” leaves John Paxson with some decisions to make as Smith wonders if a Dwyane Wade homecoming is possible.
Sam Smith at Bulls.com

Sam Smith: Hinrich injury could put move on hold


Kirk Hinrich Other than Rose, Hinrich probably has the highest trade value on the Bulls because of his position and versatility, writes Sam Smith.

It's not like Kirk Hinrich was going to be the Bulls future with the drafting of Derrick Rose. But Hinrich clearly had become perhaps the Bulls most valuable asset. Other than Rose, Hinrich probably has the highest trade value on the Bulls because of his position and versatility. Now, that's likely over for awhile with Hinrich getting surgery Tuesday and out of action for about three months, the Bulls say.

I'm not sure the team needs a replacement, though Hinrich is regarded as the only point guard backup. But Rose could play 40 minutes per game. Look, he's a kid. That should be no problem, and this season is about learning and developing for him. Ben Gordon and Thabo Sefolosha can also handle some point guard duties, and it's rare a minor leaguer would get significant time, anyway.

General manager John Paxson said the team isn't going to exceed the luxury tax of $71.15 million with a payroll now close to $71 million, which is in the top 10 in the NBA. I wouldn't, either, for a questionable playoff team. There are some veterans going to the D-League, like Smush Parker, Will Conroy and Mateen Cleaves. By the way, former Bull Eddie Robinson was picked in the D-League draft, though I doubt he plays anymore. Though it's probably not a problem now. The luxury tax is figured on the end of season payroll and if the Bulls were to pick someone up, they probably could get under the tax at the trading deadline.

One interesting name that comes up these days in trade is Oklahoma City's Earl Watson, a tough guy who really is a good backup. I probably wouldn't go that way as he likely wouldn't be happy behind Rose, and is the kind of player who could be intimidating. Also, Memphis still has four point guards on the roster, though the only ones I'd care about would take too much time from Rose. Though Oklahoma City makes you think about possibilities. They are burying veterans like Watson, Chris Wilcox and Joe Smith and don't seem to have a great amount of use for Nick Collison. GM's say you could get any of them, and I've always been a little intrigued by Wilcox and Collison.

Though I watched the Knicks beat the Jazz Sunday afternoon (were there any other sporting events going on?) and I again began thinking about my poor, underfunded Jazz. I'm always looking to help them. They were truly amazing with that 5-0 start without Deron Williams. I'd doubt any league coach or GM could name their starting five. OK, quickly: OK, Boozer and Okur. How about Ronnie Brewer, Ronnie Price and C.J. Miles? Really. Top reserves include Brevin Knight and Paul Millsap. It's a terrific organization in finding hidden talent in the second round and making it work in Jerry Sloan's system, Sloan getting coaching win 1,000 last week, and Sloan still saying he doesn't know if he'll have a job tomorrow.

In their market, they've had to be more careful and smarter, and they have been. There's much less margin for error in places that size, especially in the still coming economic slowdown. The only time they really panicked was that huge contract for Andrei Kirilenko, which has two years after this at about $17 million per season. Carlos Boozer becomes a free agent this summer, and to remain a true contender, the Jazz must keep him and will need the payroll flexibility, which to me has long meant dealing Kirilenko, now coming off the bench.

I tried to foist Ben Wallace on them last season and their general manager, Kevin O'Connor, a good guy, got mad at me because he thought I wrote they were seriously considering it. I proposed it, but, as I said, they're smart guys.

But I still believe they have to move Kirilenko, especially with Boozer coming up and perhaps Okur. I get some interesting suggestions from readers, and one of my old buddies suggested offering Drew Gooden and Andres Nocioni for Kirilenko. It doesn't do anything for backup point guard, but it's an intriguing thought and worth exploring. Taking on Gooden with his $7.1 million expiring contract would give the Jazz some financial breathing room and Nocioni is a luxury for the Bulls, a player averaging about $7 million for three years after this who has no starting position. And you know Sloan would love Nocioni, and vice versa.

Kirilenko really is a versatile power forward with his size and quickness, and cannot find a spot in Utah with Boozer at power forward. The money matches and would give the Bulls a big guy who could run. It's perhaps not perfect as Kirilenko isn't a great rebounder and the Bulls need bulk up front, but Kirilenko is just 27 and was a phenomenon in the league, if not in Sloan's system, a few years back.

Such a deal might take the Bulls out of the free agent market in 2010, when I think they have a shot at Dwyane Wade. Though that remains a long shot, and maybe you make a move now.

-- Speaking of Wade, here was the latest plan I was concocting for the Bulls and Hinrich until his injury. I do believe he can be a starting point guard in the NBA, but it's obviously no longer in Chicago. Does he want to be a career backup? He's a good soldier and teammate and never would say no, but I know I wouldn't want to be. Perhaps this is something that could even be explored in a few months if Hinrich recovers more quickly than expected. It's a bit quixotic, but, hey, our country is talking a lot about wind energy, so there should be a lot more wind turbines for us to tilt at in future years. You might say my trade discussions are a futile activity, sort of a Don Quixote of the salary cap. But all quests are worthwhile in some sense.

OK, stay with me on this one.

The Miami Heat needs a point guard. Yes, rookie Mario Chalmers had nine steals in a game, but I don't see him as the answer. And the answer is trying to figure out a way to get Dwyane Wade to resign after next season. The LeBron-Bosh-Wade free agency of 2010 remains one of the biggest stories of the NBA, and while all have pledged allegiance to their teams, it's not stopping anyone. Actually, the Heat's grand plan is believed to be to pry away Bosh to team with Wade. I don't believe that will happen because I think all will want to be the primary player on their teams. They want a Pippen. They don't want to be Pippen.

But Miami will be getting desperate. So how about trading them Hinrich to give Wade a point guard who would fit with him since Wade calls having a Chris Paul type point guard unnecessary. Wade told Florida media: "We don't need the point guard to have the ball in his hands all the time the way some teams do. At the end of the day, we need him to make some shots because playing with me they're going to get some open shots."

Sounds like Kirk Hinrich to me, and Hinrich was an invitee to USA Basketball with Wade.

So perhaps in time you give the Heat Hinrich and Andres Nocioni and with Michael Beasley, perhaps the Heat believe that's a good enough foundation to keep Wade. I'd throw in Joakim Noah if they wanted him. Popular in Florida, etc, and some size. The Bulls get back Shawn Marion, and with his contract expiring and Drew Gooden's as well, that would put the Bulls well below the salary cap so they can make a run at…

Wade.

It's about stars, and it's about stars with Derrick Rose.

Rose would be perfect for Wade, and I'm beginning to hear Wade may understand that. Wade would be the No. 1 guy because Rose is more a facilitator. Though it's a risk and you could be left with nothing, it may be the best way to put a true star with Rose. And, I believe, in the long run Wade isn't going to find he fits with Beasley.

Wade was asked some time ago about Rose and said he really didn't know anything about him even though Rose was from Chicago, as Wade is. Subsequently, the friend told me, Wade played with Rose and came back saying Rose is everything you'd want in a player other than having a great shot. And Wade pointed out he was a poor shooter coming into the pros and has improved, that with a decent stroke, which Rose has, it can be learned.

Is it far fetched? Or just fetched? It's certainly something to think about as Miami was the team most interested in Ben Gordon in the summer, though not offering much in trade. Some close to Gordon believe he could go there. Perhaps there's a package to be done, though you don't want Miami becoming too good because then Wade would stay. Is it worth the gamble? At least it's something to think about, which is about the main thing the Bulls can do now, anyway, with Hinrich gone from the court.

Around the NBA

It's not like anyone specifically is rooting for the San Antonio Spurs to suffer and any players to be injured, but there's been some knowing smiles around the NBA lately with the misfortunes of the Spurs. With Manu Ginobili out after ankle surgery from playing in the summer (which still has the Spurs fuming) and now Tony Parker out maybe a month with an ankle injury, the Spurs are 1-4 and one of the worst defensive teams in the NBA. They are 26th in opponent field goal percentage and 27th in points allowed, giving up more than 105 per game. Their only win was in double overtime over lowly Minnesota and required a career high 55 points from Tony Parker. To even compete, Tim Duncan is averaging a career high 26 per game and playing 39 minutes per game, his most in six years. You wonder where Duncan will be even if the Spurs make the playoffs—yes, it's possible they miss it with the injuries—with having to play so many minutes. "It's like with the rest of us," said one general manager. "You lose your best players, it's not easy. You'd think they'd know that better than anyone with losing (David) Robinson and they come up with Duncan (in the draft lottery). The reason there's even a little bit of I-told-you-so is the way some in the Spurs organization have carried themselves with success. It's something not that uncommon, and perhaps difficult to avoid with success. NBA people say you don't see it with coach Gregg Popovich, but several of the staffers who've left the Spurs organization, like Mike Brown in Cleveland and Sam Presti in Oklahoma City, have often acted dismissive of others around the NBA to reiterate it must be done "the San Antonio way." But the so called San Antonio way may be coming back to haunt the Spurs some, and not only because of injuries.

The Spurs have been one of the most frugal organizations given ownership with limited resources compared to other organizations and a small market. And now the market is suffering worse than most because of overall economic factors with huge job losses in telecommunications and the auto industry in San Antonio. Without a big corporate base, there are major economic fears in the organization, one league executive told me. You can see it looking at the Spurs payroll with only Duncan and Parker under contract after next season and a diminished bench. Yes, their Big Three covered up a lot. For instance, they gave away Luis Scola, a key player for Houston, so the Rockets would take salary off their hands. The Spurs deserve credit for becoming a dynasty on a tight budget, though it's sometimes easy to forget that having a truly great player makes everyone seem smarter.

-- Amidst the turmoil in Golden State, some around the NBA are speculating that it is Don Nelson's behind-the-scenes master plan (he got his close friend Larry Riley installed in upper management) to force out Chris Mullin to enable his son, Donn, to move over from Dallas…Mike D'Antoni and Donnie Walsh declared l'affair Stephon over, though in New York the tabloids decided when it over. It's not as the papers cried that the Knicks wouldn’t let poor Marbusy work out at his old Brooklyn high school and quoted Marbury saying he wished he were now being coached by Larry Brown (who tried to run him out when Brown was there) and someday he might even think of buying the Knicks. But they may get some breathing room. D'Antoni's high scoring system and banishment of Marbury and Eddy Curry has made the Knicks competitive for the first time in years…with four more seasons after this at $9.5 million per season, one general manager said Charlotte is the one putting out rumors that others are interested in Gerald Wallace.

-- One surprise in New York is DePaul's Wilson Chandler, replacing David Lee as a starter and averaging 14 points and six rebounds. It further suggests the Knicks will deal Lee rather than pay him long term…continuing to raise questions if he can contribute anymore, DePaul's Bobby Simmons is shooting 29 percent starting for the awful Nets…When the rookie Lopez brothers played last week, it was the sixth set of twins to face one another in the NBA They are only the sixth set of twins ever to play in the NBA. The others are Jason and Jarron Collins, Joey and Stephen Graham, Harvey and Horace Grant, Dick and Tom Van Arsdale, and Carl and Charles Thomas.

-- The 76ers have been a bit of an early season disappointment after the acquisition of Elton Brand. But one scout said he's not surprised: "They don't shoot very well and Brand is undersized. Teams are not afraid to put a three on Dalembert. Let him post up. Then you keep Brand on the outside."…I believe the Pistons made the Allen Iverson deal, as they did with Ben Wallace, taking the old Branch Rickey advice of "Better to trade a player a year too soon than a year too late," to be a free agency player and rebuild without missing the playoffs. It was a good time to move Chauncey Billups and take a chance with Iverson, who I believe will try to play the right way, even practice. "I look at what those guys (Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce in resurrecting their images last season) did and they deserved every bit of it," Iverson said at his introductory press conference. "When I look at this roster, I just feel, why not us? I'm willing to sacrifice whatever I have to sacrifice to get it done. I've tried it my way plenty of times and it hasn't been done. I know this is a tough-nosed team that relied on their defense, and I have to step that up. But I know I'm gonna fit here. Anything coach (Michael) Curry wants me to do, I can get it done." With Iverson, TNT bumped the Bulls-Mavs game Thursday for Detroit Golden State and the Bulls will return to a 7:30 p.m. start…the Pistons website—and team websites are the only place where it's really happening these days for basketball news and commentary—increased by 500 percent in page views in the days after the Iverson acquisition.

-- Rookie JaVale McGee is averaging 10 points and six rebounds the last three games for the winless Wizards and playing more than starter Etan Thomas. You wonder if the Wizards will again make a run at Larry Hughes when he returns, and I'd imagine the Bulls would want to dump that salary even with Hinrich out…

-- This has to be the highlight of Barack Obama's run. Gilbert Arenas got "Change we believe in" tattooed on his fingers.

-- It was the ultimate Ron Artest in that game of the season last week with Portland's overtime win over Houston. Artest took a wild and crazy runner that missed in the Rockets' last regulation shot, but then stripped Brandon Roy as Roy was trying to face up for a regulation winner. It's not that Artest is causing disruptions all the time. It's more that he ignores the offense and takes bizarre shots, which is balanced by relentless man to man defense that almost no one plays…with Brandan Wright getting a career high 18 points against Denver in place of Al Harrington, Don Nelson said he's done showcasing Harrington for trade, which teams never admit, and was now playing Wright. Nelson said he would have continued playing Harrington, but when word got out about Harrington's desire to be traded, Nelson said he had to drop that plan. Those close to Harrington believe Nelson leaked Harrington's wishes. Harrington then said his back hurt and sat out. Ya gotta love this league.

The contents of this page have not been reviewed or endorsed by the Chicago Bulls. All opinions expressed by Sam Smith are solely his own and do not reflect the opinions of the Chicago Bulls or their Basketball Operations staff, parent company, partners, or sponsors.