When the Bulls signed Lindsey Hunter, it was a pretty straightforward deal. Kirk Hinrich was injured. It wasn't fair of the Bulls to ask rookie point guard Derrick Rose to pick up the slack -- Rose, already with nagging injuries, has never played a grueling NBA season before. And so the Bulls signed a defensively stalwart, well-past-his-prime point guard in Lindsey Hunter as a stopgap measure. Fair enough.
But somewhere along the way, as the Chicago Tribune details today, the Bulls started to get more out of Hunter than a stopgap. They got a veteran leader, a rarity on a team where "veteran leadership" means "Larry Hughes" and "Drew Gooden." To wit:
Now Hunter is returning that favor, giving back to the game, in Derrick Rose's ear as much as coach Vinny Del Negro—offering pointers, cajoling, supporting. "He never shuts up," Rose said, laughing. "He's the dad of the team. You don't want to get on his bad side." "He really enjoys helping the coaching staff," said Chicago-based Mark Bartelstein, Hunter's longtime agent. "That desire to help younger players is natural and genuine with Lindsey."
That desire to help young players is perfect for the Bulls, who could benefit from a little veteran guidance. Even their coach isn't a veteran. Which is why it seems the Bulls will turn Hunter from stopgap into full-time team member by extending his contract, even after Hinrich returns from injury.
In the context of the NBA, it's a small thing, re-signing Lindsey Hunter. After all, he's a 37-year-old defensive specialist who doesn't move all that well anymore, and who is only averaging 11 minutes a game for the Bulls. What difference could he make? Tangibly, very little. But if even one of Hunter's lessons -- like his proclivity for full-court ball defense -- catch on with the Bulls, or if even one of his tendencies eventually makes Derrick Rose a better player, it will have been worth the pittance the Bulls paid for the old man's services.