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1 test down, 1 to go for Bulls' Smith
The true test for Joe Smith will come Wednesday.
That's when the 12-year veteran will test his right knee, the one whose swelling had sidelined him until he made his Bulls debut Tuesday night at the United Center.
Thirteen minutes during the Bulls' 97-76 victory over the Wizards came easily and efficiently enough for Smith, who finished with seven points.
But the Bulls, beset by nagging injuries to Smith, Ben Gordon, Thabo Sefolosha and Adrian Griffin, will be monitoring Smith closely.
Even beforehand, Smith said his knee didn't feel 100 percent but that he wanted to play to get acclimated with his new teammates. Who said veterans can't be hungry?
"It's important to get to know my teammates, even after playing all these years," Smith said. "That's why I'm kind of trying to rush my way back a little bit. Games and practices are totally different. I want to get as comfortable with the guys as I can. Playing in games before the season starts is important."
Even ones that merely count as glorified scrimmages. With Gordon, Griffin and Sefolosha still out and coach Scott Skiles limiting his starters to roughly 20 minutes, it's hard to get a gauge on the Bulls.
Luol Deng's efficient offense and Ben Wallace's dominant defense stood out again. Deng tallied team highs of 11 points and eight rebounds in 22 minutes.
Skiles said before the game he plans on increasing the starters' minutes for Friday's exhibition in Toronto against the Raptors. But he also said he might sit certain players for one of this weekend's games because the Bulls play their first back-to-back set with a Saturday home contest against the Pacers.
If Smith comes out of Tuesday's action healthy, look for him to be one of the players Skiles sits for one of this weekend's games.
"I still feel I'm picking things up," Smith said. "A lot of stuff we're running, I've run throughout my career. But the terminology is different. So I have to pick up on that and transfer it so I don't have to think about it and just react."
Smith is the least of Skiles' concerns, no matter his role.
"I think if he started for awhile then all of a sudden you wanted to make a change, I don't think that would bother him," Skiles said. "And I think if he was comfortable in his role off the bench and all of a sudden you said, 'Look, we've lost a couple in a row. We want to mix it up.' He'd start and you'd probably see the same game out of him.
"He's just a solid player. If we can keep his knee right, we can count on him for the things he does well."
Shooting the mid-range jumper is one such thing. Smith's first Bulls basket came on a 16-footer as he was fouled by the Wizards' Andray Blatche. He drained the free throw for a three-point play.
Skiles called Smith "a team guy" who is fitting in well. Given his teammates' reaction as Smith fell into the Bulls' bench after Blatche's foul -- all backslaps and genuine joy -- Skiles is right.