Kirk Hinrich might have the most difficult job of anyone heading into the Bulls' first-round playoff series against Washington. He'll try to slow down all-star guard John Wall, who blossomed into a star in his fourth pro season.
Not long ago, Hinrich had a much different role -- helping teach Wall how to become an NBA player.
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When the Bulls traded Hinrich to Washington in the summer of 2010, Wall also joined the Wizards as the No. 1 overall draft pick. Head coach Flip Saunders didn't exactly introduce the two by saying, "John, this guy is going to teach you how to be an NBA guard," but Hinrich and Wall were given adjoining lockers.
"The relationship was good. I got along great with him. I enjoyed playing with him," Hinrich said Friday at the Berto Center. "You could tell that he had, obviously, great athleticism, great talent. But also a knack for playing the point guard position."
Hinrich said Wall did ask for some help during the short time they spent as teammates.
"We had good talks," Hinrich said. "(Assistant coach) Sam Cassell was there, too, so Sam was doing a lot of the mentoring. If I taught him anything, it was probably just by example. We definitely had some good talks, throughout practice, sometimes in the locker room. It wasn't anything out of the ordinary."
The partnership didn't last long. Hinrich was traded to Atlanta in late February after playing 48 games with the Wizards. The trade gave Hinrich a chance to be in the playoffs that season, although he was knocked out the second-round series against the Bulls with a hamstring injury. The Wizards had a 15-41 record at the time of the trade.
Hinrich's Washington adventure is largely a forgotten memory, but a pleasant one in his mind.
"It was a short period of time, but it feels like yesterday," he said. "Time just really flies. It is what it is. I went there, they were kind of in a different place than I was in my career. But I enjoyed it. I didn't enjoy the losing, but the staff and everybody there was great to me.
"At the end of the day, I still was enjoying going to play basketball every day."
The Bulls might be able to win even with Wall putting up big numbers, but he's clearly the player who makes things happen for the Wizards -- pushing the tempo, forcing the defense to collapse, creating open shots for others and scoring himself. Wall averaged 19.3 points this season and ranked second in the league with 8.8 assists per game.
"You're not going to slow him down 1-on-1," Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau said. "We need five guys sprinting back, making him play in a crowd. He still has the ability to make good plays. His speed is terrific. Makes and misses, they push it hard. We have to be ready for that."
This will be Wall's first time in the playoffs, but that doesn't always mean much. When these teams met in the 2005 first round, Gilbert Arenas was at a similar point in his career and excelled against the Bulls.
In Washington on Friday, Wall talked about how he'll try to deal with the Bulls' defense.
"It's very tough if you're going to try to beat them with one guy," Wall said. "Even if you're a top scoring guy in this league, they do a great job of forcing you to take tough shots and make tough shots if you're going to do it that way.
"But we're a team that different guys lead us in scoring every night. That's how it goes, unless somebody is on a streak, we're a group that's got six or seven guys in double digits for a reason, because we play as a team."