SIOUX CITY -- This certainly wasn't the first time Kirk Hinrich had heard the questions, but it probably hadn't come up quite as often as it did on Monday during his third annual golf benefit at Sioux City Country Club.
As many times as he told the hometown fans how he's good with the trade to the Washington Wizards, the consistent answers didn't mean this was a scenario he might have picked for himself.
Truth is, you see, the 1999 West High grad would probably prefer to play his eighth NBA season right where played the first seven. And, that would be at Chicago's United Center, where he and the Chicago Bulls led the league in attendance last season.
That's not happening, of course, because the Bulls, making an ill-fated bid in the LeBron James sweepstakes, unloaded Hinrich in a July 8 trade aimed at freeing up space on the salary cap for a blockbuster deal that didn't materialize.
So, Kirk is keeping things strictly on the positive side, trying to make some lemonade, as it were.
"Initially, it was a little bit of a shock because I didn't really see it (the trade) coming,'' said the 29-year-old former Kansas University star. "But I'm excited to have a fresh start. I played in Chicago seven great years. I'm excited to go out there (to Washington) and play some more ball.''
The trade sends Hinrich, the seventh pick in the 2003 draft (same year as James, Dwyane Wade, Carmelo Anthony and Chris Bosch) to a team that has struggled the last two seasons. Still, Washington actually had four consecutive playoff appearances prior to that, all with Bulls legend Michael Jordan as the head coach.
The Wizards went 19-63, second worst in the NBA, after Jordan stepped down 11 games into the 2008-09 schedule, and only three teams in the 30-team league did worse than their 26-56 mark during the latest campaign.
However, they have made a number of personnel moves and the first of those was the hiring last season of Flip Saunders, a successful 13-year NBA coaching veteran who spent nine years with the Minnesota Timberwolves and three with the Detroit Pistons.
"I think we're definitely talented enough that we can make the playoffs,'' said Hinrich. "Once I get there and meet the guys and get into the system I'll have a better idea, but I definitely think we've got a lot of talent.''
For the Wizards, that starts with 6-4 guard Gilbert Arenas, a three-time all-star who still has four years left on a six-year, $111-million contract. Arenas, though, hasn't played much the last three seasons, missing most of two years with knee trouble and then getting slapped with a 50-game suspension last winter for bringing a handgun into the team clubhouse.
"I know Gilbert, I've played against him a lot, I've talked to him,'' said Hinrich. "I think he's ready to put everything that happened to him last year behind him and play basketball.''
A former University of Arizona star with a 22.7-point career scoring average, Arenas will be joined in the backcourt by the first pick in this year's NBA draft, point guard John Wall from the University of Kentucky. But Hinrich isn't drawing any comparison between this development and the two years he spent playing alongside point guard Derrick Rose, the first choice in the 2008 draft.
"There's a lot of different things that were going on in Chicago that aren't going on in Washington,'' he said. "I think John's going to be a great player. I don't know exactly how it's going to work.
"I know we're going to have a very good backcourt and our bigs are very talented.''
Up front, the Wizards have five-year veteran Andray Blatche, a 6-11, 260-pounder who was drafted straight out of high school in 2005, the last year the NBA didn't require American players to spend at least one year in college.
They have picked up 7-foot, 250-pound center Yi Jianlian from the New Jersey Nets, the sixth pick in the 2007 draft who is currently the second leading scorer in the FIBA World Championships.
Meanwhile, swingman Josh Howard, a former Wake Forest star who has spent most of his first seven NBA seasons with Dallas, has a career scoring average of 15.3 points. Also, forward Al Thornton, a 6-8, 235-pounder out of Florida State who has averaged 13.3 points in four NBA, was acquired late last season from the Clippers.
The change of scenery has inspired Hinrich to work even harder than usual this summer.
"I've always been motivated, but I've got more of an edge this year,'' he said. "I've got a completely fresh start with a new team and I'm ready to go.''
With two years left on the five-year, $47.5-million contract extension that kicked in for the 2007-08 season, he plans to keep the spacious mansion (9,270 square feet on 5.79 acres in suburban Bannockburn, Ill.) he purchased late in 2007 for $4.4-million, or well under its market listing.
"We're looking at is as just another adventure in our lives,'' said Hinrich, whose wife is the former Jill Fisher, a state champion long jumper at Bishop Heelan. The couple has a daughter, Kenzie, who recently turned 2.
"We're going to live in D.C. during the season and in the offseason we'll go back and live in Chicago,'' he said. "It'll work out fine.''
For the second year in a row, the Hinrich golf outing will channel its proceeds to Camp High Hopes, a recreational area that will be built near Bacon Creek Park for people of all ages with disabilities.
"They're close to the goal where they'll actually be able to build,'' said Hinrich. "A lot of people around the Siouxland area are trying to get this going and I feel fortunate to be able to help them out any way I can.''
Monday's event drew a full field of 38 foursomes for golf while a dinner and auction attracted well over 300.
"The real thanks go to the people who come out here and support this every year,'' said Kirk.