CHICAGO -- Kirk Hinrich never wanted to leave Chicago. After he was dealt for cap space in 2010 during the Summer of LeBron, the veteran guard said later that he was surprised by the move. He always loved being with the Bulls and loved raising his family in the Chicago suburbs.
That's why it should come as no surprise that Hinrich took less money to come back here two years ago and did the same to stay here this past summer. The 33-year-old knows where he wants to be and knows where his family is happy.
He also knows that the 2014-15 Bulls may be the best team he's ever been on.
"I like our talent. I like our mix," he said Thursday. "We've got a good mix of young guys, veteran guys. But that's just the starting point. We have to put it together as a group. That's what it's been about these first three days."
Having Hinrich back in the fold has been a huge plus in coach Tom Thibodeau's eyes. Thibodeau has leaned on Hinrich a lot the past two seasons -- largely without Derrick Rose -- and it doesn't hurt that Hinrich is one of the most respected players in the Bulls' locker room.
"The big thing with Kirk is his experience," Thibodeau said. "Veteran leadership, ability to hit big shots, ability to play both positions, ability to start, come off the bench, run the team. He's one of those guys, I don't think you measure him statistically. You go by what he does for the team and how he helps you win. That's where he's invaluable.
"He's a big part of this team. When Derrick was initially injured, we thought getting him was critical. Going back to 2010, it was unfortunate we lost him then because he would have been a huge part of that team, as well."
The love affair between Hinrich and the Bulls' organization only seems to be growing stronger over time. Even after getting traded to Washington in 2010 and then being dealt to Atlanta in 2011, Hinrich kept the same house in suburban Chicago. He says he's not thinking about retirement at this point, but the biggest key for him will be continuing to limit minutes when possible. Hinrich has had to deal with a litany of injuries in recent years, but once Thibodeau started limiting his minutes last season, to about 20-25 a game, the combo guard thrived in his new role. He played in 73 games last season and became a trusted stalwart for Thibodeau on both ends of the floor.
As he gets set to enter his 12th NBA season, Hinrich hopes to maintain the same level of success.
"Yeah, that always helps," he said with a laugh, in regards to staying in one piece. "I was encouraged last year the way I felt. I feel good coming into camp this year, so I'm anticipating to feel good this year, and just have to do what it takes to stay that way."
Thibodeau is willing to do what it takes, as well. The hard-charging coach showed restraint with Hinrich's minutes last season and it paid off. Having Hinrich back -- as an insurance policy in case Rose suffers another injury -- allows Thibodeau to breathe a little easier as he brings arguably the deepest roster of his Bulls tenure into a new season.
"I know how I felt about him when I was in Boston," Thibodeau said. "I know how [former Celtics coach] Doc [Rivers] felt about him then, as well. So I knew that he would have value and a lot of it. So I think we had good fortune in being able to bring him back."
Even the normally even-keeled Hinrich can't contain the joy he is feeling these days. He's back with the team he always wanted to be on, and he's now the proud father of four kids. He and his wife, Jill, had twins, a boy and a girl, on Sept. 12.
"I'm really enjoying it," he said. "I feel truly blessed to have twins. To have one is an amazing feeling, but to have two at the same time is great. I'm on top of the world right now, feel like I can't lose."