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Pending fatherhood to change Hinrich's off-season
By Mike McGraw | Daily Herald Staff
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Published: 4/16/2008 12:04 AM

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Kirk Hinrich plans on changing his summer routine this year and does not expect to attend Team USA's training camp prior to the Beijing Olympics.

But it has nothing to do with the Bulls' disappointing season. It's all about becoming a dad.

"I haven't talked to anybody (at USA Basketball)," Hinrich said. "Last year when I didn't go back, they said it wasn't like they were going to discount me (for the Olympic team). But I don't plan on going back. My wife (Jill) is pregnant."

Hinrich played for Team USA two years ago at the FIBA World Championships in Japan. Last year, after some additional point guards were added to the roster, he attended a minicamp in Las Vegas, then did not return for the Olympic qualifying tournament.

"It wasn't like I was upset about anything. It just wasn't working out for me," he said. "This summer, it definitely wouldn't work out for me."

So Hinrich plans to stay close to home during the off-season, knowing that his spot on the Bulls is not guaranteed. There is no telling what might happen to the team this summer, but one obvious goal is clearing the logjam in the backcourt among Hinrich, Ben Gordon and Larry Hughes.

This was widely considered a down year for Hinrich. Since last season, his scoring average dipped from 16.6 points to 11.6, while his shooting percentage slid from .448 to .415.

"Offensively, I got off to a bad start field-goal percentage-wise," he said. "It came back to about where it should be. I always want it to be higher.

"Just the team, we haven't been as good. When the team struggles like this, you always look at what you could do better. Obviously, I wish I had a better year. I feel I definitely could have had a better year. As a group, we just didn't get the job done."

The Bulls have always considered Hinrich a combo guard, not a true point. Juggling the dual role of being a scorer and a distributor seemed to be more of a struggle this season. His shots per game dropped to 10.7 from 13.3 last year. During eight games in April, he's averaged just 6.8 points.

"All year we've had a hard time finding a balance as a team -- moving the ball, when to take shots, when not to take shots, feeling the game," Hinrich said. "I think that's a big reason where we're at right now.

"On top of that, defensively, we've been horrific most of the year. I don't feel like I did anything wrong (last summer). I feel like I did my normal preparation. I definitely plan on having a great summer and get ready to get back after it next year."

Forward Luol Deng is another player whose production dropped from last season. Like Hinrich, he doesn't think his summer preparation had anything to do with what happened during the season.

Though he becomes a restricted free agent in July, Deng figures to be back with the Bulls next year. Even so, he has no suggestions for how to avoid a repeat losing season.

"I have no idea," Deng said. "That's for the organization to decide; who comes back and how they want to run it. I've just got to see how my summer goes, see whether I'm here or I'm not here. Hopefully, I'm here, but we just have to see how it goes."

Tonight's tipoff

Bulls vs. Toronto Raptors at the United Center, 7:30 p.m.

TV: Comcast SportsNet-Plus

Radio: WMVP 1000-AM

Update: The Raptors (41-40) clinched the No. 6 playoff seed Monday and will face Orlando in the first round, regardless of what happens tonight. Toronto has won the last four games in the series and handed the Bulls their worst home loss of the season 101-71 on Nov. 10.

Next: End of season

-- Mike McGraw