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The would-be spark came courtesy of a flurry of aggressive plays by the backup point guard. He began by pick-pocketing the other team's reserve point, who is more than 15 years his junior. He hounded that some point guard on the next play and frustrated him with his full-court pressure, and he ended that opposing possession by stepping in to take a charge from a swingman. Two plays later, he sliced down the left lane to leave a drop pass for his cutting center. That pass turned into a dunk.
If not for the aid of the score box on the bottom portion of the screen, it would have been quite easy for an observer of Lindsey Hunter's performance Wednesday night to forget that his team trailed by approximately 30 points at that point last night.
With the possible exception of Greg Oden, the 37-year-old Hunter was the oldest and most tenured player on the floor, and he was the smallest as well. Most of his 18 minutes came well after this game had already been effectively signed, sealed and delivered to the Chicago loss column. At Hunter's level of tenure, there are plenty of players in this league who would have wanted no part of being on the floor late in the third quarter of a 30-point game. Not only was Hunter out there, but he set an example for his younger teammates with an intensity that belied the score.
From the moment he stepped on the court in his third game as a Bull, Hunter showed off his patented ball hawking skills. He pressured Portland ball-handlers from end-to-end, and he was as active as always defensively. Hunter took the ball away from Sergio Rodriguez once and picked off another one of his passes as part of his three steals. The charge he took from Travis Outlaw came as a direct result of sitting in help, anticipating the play before it happened and sliding to the spot to be in position. There isn't a whole lot of that going on in 84-55 games, especially when it involves a guy getting run over by someone with seven inches and more than 35 pounds on him.
But that's what Lindsey Hunter is about, and that's why this guy is in Chicago. This is a professional, a guy who will set an example for his teammates on a young squad that comes off a year of turmoil and discipline problems. This is a guy who comes to work every day and does whatever the team asks of him to the best of his ability. He could care less about his shots or his point totals and isn't likely to complain about how many minutes he gets or the situations in which he gets them. He is going to provide a needed veteran presence and mentor for Derrick Rose, the present and future of this Bulls team, and his two rings won't exactly hurt his credibility as a winner either.
It was only a matter of time before the man who is perhaps still the league's best at ball pressure caught on somewhere. For as long as he is in Chicago, it is hard to imagine Lindsey Hunter will be anything but the consummate example of the right attitude and approach to bring to the basketball court, particularly on the defensive end.