By Mike McGraw
Kirk Hinrich's scoring average grew steadily during his first four NBA seasons, peaking at 16.6 points per game in 2006-07.
After that, his shot attempts and offensive production fell sharply, but he never has had a season like this. Through Wednesday, Hinrich is averaging 4.8 points and shooting 30.5 percent from the field -- both career lows.
On Friday at the Berto Center, the veteran guard, in his second turn with the Bulls, assessed the situation.
"I haven't taken many shots," he said. "You're going to miss all the ones you don't shoot. It's just a small sample every game. I'm having trouble getting a rhythm. I'll maybe hit a couple early and kind of lose my rhythm throughout the game.
"(I'll) just try and focus on what I can do all-around. Don't let it affect my floor game and my defense and know that shots are going to go in."
That's one of the problems facing the Bulls right now. Hinrich does other things very well.
In the fourth quarter of close games, coach Tom Thibodeau is forced to decide whether to go with Hinrich's defense and sound decision-making or send in Nate Robinson, a more explosive scorer who can also be mistake-prone.
"All players have different strengths and weaknesses and you also have to look at what your team needs at that particular point," Thibodeau said. "We're confident in Kirk's ability. I think his defense has been outstanding, and Nate, at times, has been very, very good on offense.
"We have to be able to close with different people. Everyone has to understand what their job is and has to get their job done."
Of course, there is a third option. Rookie Marquis Teague hasn't played much this season, but when he did get a chance against Boston on Nov. 12, he did a nice job guarding Rajon Rondo and almost brought the Bulls back from a late deficit.
The Bulls will play two games in three days against Milwaukee, which starts a small backcourt in Monta Ellis and Brandon Jennings. So this might be a good time to give Teague another chance to play.
"It depends on what we need," Thibodeau said. "You don't want to be jumping around, but I like what Marquis has done in practice. So we'll see."
Perhaps the best solution to the Bulls' point-guard rotation would be for Hinrich to score the way he's been used to in his career, which would make it an easy call for Thibodeau to put his best defender on the floor in the fourth quarter.
"I think I just need to play," Hinrich added. "I think I'm a very instinctive player. I just need to go out there and play on my instincts and let the chips fall where they may."
The Bulls (5-6) will carry a three-game losing streak into Saturday's game at Milwaukee. Until they lost in Houston on Wednesday, the Bulls hadn't lost more than two regular-season games in a row during Thibodeau's tenure.
"We just have to be tougher," Hinrich added. "It's hard to win in this league. You get in these back and forth games, and the team that make plays down the stretch is going to win. We just have to be a little bit smarter and a little bit tougher and make some more plays."