Tongue planted firmly in cheek, Scott Skiles suppressed a smile when asked his goals for Ben Gordon's exhibition debut Tuesday night.
"Just that he can move around without falling down," the Bulls coach said. "That's pretty much it. He had several tripping episodes [Monday] in practice."
That goal, well, fell by the wayside early in the Bulls' 96-88 loss to the Mavericks at American Airlines Center.
Gordon, who had been sidelined since Oct. 8 with a sprained left ankle before practicing Monday, slipped and fell while barely being guarded as he set up a first-quarter possession.
But the fourth-year guard righted himself to score six points and, perhaps of more importance, run with the starters with just one exhibition and week remaining until the Oct. 31 season opener in New Jersey.
With Luol Deng sidelined for a second game with a bruised right wrist, the Bulls have yet to field their projected lineup this preseason. Then again, that lineup is undetermined with rookie Aaron Gray drawing his second straight start alongside Ben Wallace up front.
"Not that he's near as good as Eddy Curry, but not since Eddy have we had somebody who could catch it in [the post] and have a move they could go to and score," Skiles said. "I don't know any better than anybody else if he can do that in regular NBA games. I can only base it on what I see. And so far he has done it.
"That's enough to give him an opportunity to play. That doesn't necessarily mean he'll start. But it should be enough to get him in the rotation."
Gray is taking his promotion—temporary or otherwise—in stride.
"I understand I have a long way to go, but so far, I feel very comfortable," Gray said. "When you're the 49th [draft] pick, you kind of have to have a quiet confidence because there aren't a lot of expectations.
"And that's never how I want to go about things. I want people to expect a lot out of me because I expect a lot out of myself."
Gray finished with seven points, four rebounds and three fouls in 15 minutes. Josh Howard intercepted Gray's lazy pass out of a double-team early in the third for a breakaway layup.
Rookie Joakim Noah replaced Gray shortly thereafter. Both Noah and Tyrus Thomas played with energy, if not always effectiveness, off the bench.
Noah finished with 12 points and six rebounds in 26 minutes. Thomas added 10 points and five rebounds in 16 minutes.
But the Bulls continue to exhibit some troubling signs, including 57.7 percent free-throw shooting, 15 turnovers and too many clear paths to the basket defensively.
The Mavericks led 83-61 after three quarters.
"It wasn't a good performance," Skiles said. "They broke us down on the dribble. Our help was slow to react. We fouled. We were out of position. We looked lethargic. We're playing similar to how we played on the road early last season. I guess we haven't learned the lesson that we need to bring more energy."
Gordon played just more than 15 minutes, showing no effects from his ankle injury as he rose high to drain 3 of 6 shots.
"It felt pretty good," Gordon said. "On sudden starts and stops, I felt it a little. But it didn't give me any problems."
LayupsDeng said his injury continues to improve and he expects to practice Wednesday. … Gordon will serve coffee and doughnuts at the Dunkin Donuts in Deerfield, 499 Lake Cook Road, on Wednesday from 2:30 to 3:30 p.m. … In a survey to be released Wednesday, the league's general managers voted the Bulls as the favorite to win the Central Division but the Pistons and Celtics tied as favorites to win the Eastern Conference. … Gary Zielinski whistled back-to-back technical fouls on Kirk Hinrich and Skiles in the second quarter when Hinrich waved at the official in disgust because of a no-call for Thomas. … Jerry Stackhouse and Thabo Sefolosha exchanged words and hard fouls in the third quarter.Copyright © 2015, Los Angeles Times