Sunday, November 9, 2008

Bulls’ Hinrich might miss three months

Ex-Jayhawk needs surgery for torn ligament in thumb


— Bulls guard Kirk Hinrich needs surgery to repair a torn ligament in his right thumb and will miss up to three months.

Hinrich was hurt Friday night in Chicago's 100-83 victory over Phoenix.

"I'm frustrated," Hinrich said Saturday. "I worked hard in the offseason. I'm still trying to figure out how long 12 weeks is going to be and, really, what I'm going to do with myself."

Hinrich, making his first start, was injured in the third quarter trying to knock the ball away from Amare Stoudemire, The guard initially thought he hyperextended the thumb but realized it was more serious as the swelling mounted.

Even so, he didn't expect this diagnosis.

The Bulls initially called it a sprain, but an exam before Saturday night's game against Cleveland revealed a torn ulnar collateral ligament.

"I was going home last night thinking maybe in a couple days I'd be feeling better," Hinrich said. "I was kinda shocked that I find out today I had torn a ligament."

It's the first major injury for Hinrich, a fomer Kansas University standout who said he has never had surgery. The operation is scheduled for Tuesday.

"It's tough to swallow," coach Vinny Del Negro said before the Bulls played Cleveland. "I feel bad for him. Without question, it affects the team."

The injury creates a leadership void and leaves the Bulls without a reliable backup point guard behind No. 1 draft pick Derrick Rose.

"We're going to be real careful," general manager John Paxson said. "We're looking at the (luxury) tax number. We've already talked about some things. I'm going to sit down (Sunday) and take a look at the available people out there (and) how does it work with us in the tax line."

In his sixth season, Hinrich was averaging 8.3 points and 4.0 assists in mostly a backup role now that Rose is in the fold. The Bulls went with Thabo Sefolosha at shooting guard the first five games but he struggled, so Del Negro started Hinrich with Rose against the Suns.

On Saturday, Ben Gordon started at shooting guard, and the Bulls might stick with him for at least a few games. When they drafted Rose, they envisioned him penetrating and passing out to an open Gordon on the perimeter, and they figure to get more time together now that Hinrich is hurt.

But who will back up Rose?

Larry Hughes is expected to participate in contact drills this week and will add depth to the backcourt once he returns after dislocating his right shoulder in the preseason, but he's not a point guard. Ballhandling is not a strength of Gordon or Sefolosha.

"We know Derrick's going to play those 35 to 40 minutes a night," general manager John Paxson said. "It's those other minutes that you get a little bit concerned about."

Besides Hinrich, forward Drew Gooden, also a Kansas product, sat out because of a sprained right ankle. He is day to day.


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