By K.C. Johnson, Chicago Tribune –
CHICAGO — The notion began on the June 2010 draft night the Bulls traded Kirk Hinrich to the Wizards for additional salary cap space in their attempt to go all in for LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh in free agency.
John Paxson’s first draft selection as Bulls general manager one day would return.
Wednesday will be that day. Multiple sources said Hinrich, who maintained his offseason home here, is expected to sign a two-year, roughly $6 million deal once the free-agent moratorium ends. However, details are still being finalized.
The move signals the end of C.J. Watson’s tenure, whom sources said was told his team option won’t be picked up by Tuesday’s deadline, and solves the Bulls’ need for a combo guard.
Hinrich, 31, will start at point guard while Derrick Rose rehabilitates from knee surgery and rookie Marquis Teague learns the ropes, then slide over to shooting guard to back up Richard Hamilton and play alongside Rose. When Hamilton’s deal expires after this season, Hinrich could start at shooting guard next season.
Hinrich, who initially was devastated by the trade, turned down significant interest elsewhere, including a strong offer from the Bucks, to sign with the franchise that drafted him seventh overall and was his home for seven seasons. The comfort level with the Bulls and opportunity to play for coach Tom Thibodeau helped sway Hinrich, sources said. Thibodeau was strongly in favor of the move, sources said.
Hinrich has endured multiple injuries since leaving, including surgery in November to repair a torn labrum in his left shoulder, and averaged just 6.6 points on 41.4 percent shooting for the Hawks last season. He has averaged 12.5 points and 5.4 assists on 41.7 percent shooting in nine NBA seasons.
If Hinrich signs for what is called the mini-midlevel exception in the new collective bargaining agreement, that means the Bulls can exceed both the luxury tax threshold projected to be $70.3 million and a hard cap of $74.3 million set for teams who use the full midlevel exception.
Reading tea leaves, this means the Bulls could be leaning toward matching Omer Asik’s three-year, $24 million-$25 million offer sheet from the Rockets since Hinrich’s deal would put them at $67.3 million committed to nine players.
Matching Asik would take the Bulls to $72.3 million for 10 players. They have never paid the luxury tax. Regardless of what the Asik decision is, the Bulls are pursuing minimum-salary free agents to round out the roster. They hosted small forward Gerald Green over the weekend.
Though guard Courtney Lee is being pursued hard by both the Pacers and Celtics, the Bulls haven’t ruled out trying to add him via a sign-and-trade with the Rockets, league sources said.
Hinrich’s deal expires in 2014, the next time it appears the Bulls can make major moves. Luol Deng’s contract expires, Carlos Boozer almost certainly will be a victim of the amnesty provision and one of Asik or Joakim Noah could be dealt if Asik’s offer is matched. Nikola Mirotic also could leave Real Madrid for the Bulls then.
Layups: Adrian Griffin will coach the summer-league team, which opens against the Celtics on July 17. … Sources confirmed Steve Clifford, who spent six seasons with Thibodeau in New York and Houston, will replace assistant coach Rick Brunson, who left for Charlotte. CSNChicago.com first reported the staff move.