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Long-range (shooting) plans
By Mike McGraw | Daily Herald Staff
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Published: 10/27/2007 11:24 PM

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Last season the Bulls ranked second in the NBA in 3-point field-goal percentage at 38.8 percent, but were just 23rd in 3-point attempts per game.

During preseason, the Bulls shot an impressive 44.1 percent from 3-point range, which could be seen as a cue to use the 3-pointer as a more prominent weapon. But coach Scott Skiles isn't ready to change the offensive strategy.

"I feel like we've been real smart in using it," Skiles said following Saturday's practice. "In games when it presents itself, we've shot them. Then there are other games where people really make an effort to get out to us and then we have to put the ball on the floor."

Andres Nocioni was the Bulls' best long-range shooter during preseason, knocking down 10 of 16 attempts. Kirk Hinrich (11 of 23), Chris Duhon (9 of 19) and Thomas Gardner (8 of 17) were all above 47 percent.

"I think it can be a strength of ours," Hinrich said. "If we move the ball, we get much better looks from three and naturally you make a lot more of them. At the same time, it's not like we concentrate on, 'We're going to win by making threes.' We just take the shots we get."

Smith unsure of starting: As expected, Ben Wallace and Joakim Noah sat out Saturday's practice because of sprained ankles suffered two days earlier. Noah is expected to miss at least a week, while it's too soon to make a call on Wallace's status for Wednesday's season opener at New Jersey.

Coach Scott Skiles said he'd settled on a starting lineup, which he refused to reveal. Veteran power forward Joe Smith provided a clue by suggesting he'll start only if Wallace can't go. That could mean Tyrus Thomas will start against the Nets.

"Whatever's asked, I feel I'm ready for," Smith said. "Whether it's to be in the starting lineup in place of Ben, or if Ben comes back and I'm coming off the bench."

Smith feels the sore right knee that kept him out of four preseason games is in good shape. He's had one cortisone and two anti-inflammatory shots in recent weeks.

Bull horns: Forward Adrian Griffin, who has been out with a sore back, participated in a full practice for the first time on Saturday. ... The Bulls ranked second-to-last in the league in free-throw shooting during preseason at 67.5 percent. Kirk Hinrich (59.1 percent) and Andres Nocioni (60 percent) were among the worst offenders.