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Smith takes plenty of heat for missed dunk
By Mike McGraw | Daily Herald Staff
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Published: 12/6/2007 12:28 AM

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CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- Joe Smith played only four minutes in the previous two Bulls games, so the veteran power forward was willing to take the good with the bad after getting his first start of the season Wednesday night.

The good part was Smith scored all 11 of his points in the first half. The bad news was he missed a wide-open layup and blew an uncontested dunk.

"We were just in the shower, they were killing me about it," Smith said of his missed dunk. "I knew it was coming, that's why I just started laughing."

Coach Scott Skiles plans to stick with Smith in the starting lineup Friday when the Bulls visit Detroit.

"Unfortunately for him, he hasn't played as much lately," Skiles said. "I played him so much in the first half and sometimes with older players, they sit at halftime and it's kind of hard to get going again. If I can stick with him in the lineup again, maybe he can get back in the swing of things."

Smith has been bothered by swelling in his right knee and has been riding an exercise bike to stay loose when he's not in the game. He banged his left knee against Charlotte's Gerald Wallace at one point Wednesday.

"The first couple minutes are always the toughest," Smith said. "Once you get your second wind, you're fine. I felt pretty good out there. The knees felt fine."

Bad hand for Hinrich: Kirk Hinrich aggravated a sprained ligament in his right hand against Charlotte, but said the injury wasn't any worse than usual.

"I've been playing with it pretty much all year, so I don't think it does (hurt my shooting)," Hinrich said. "I wish I could say it did."

Hinrich scored 14 points in the fourth quarter Monday against Dallas, but he couldn't continue any momentum. He went scoreless Wednesday and is shooting 34.3 percent for the season.

Deng replaces points: Before Wednesday's game, Luol Deng was wondering why some news outlets reported he went scoreless in the first half Monday against Dallas. One of his early baskets was mistakenly credited to someone else and it wasn't corrected until the final box score was handed out after the game.

"I really don't care. I saw that I didn't score in the first half, so I said, 'You know what, I'm going to make sure I score this time,'" said Deng, who scored 30 points against the Bobcats.

Quiet in Carolina: Charlotte may have replaced Atlanta for the NBA's deadest atmosphere. Besides the arena being less than half full, Wednesday's halftime entertainment was video of Adam Sandler singing "The Chanukah Song" on "Saturday Night Live" about 15 years ago.