Some rest for the weary

Skiles wants to keep his veterans fresh

Published: 10/19/2007 12:21 AM

The lone set of back-to-back games during the preseason gives Bulls coach Scott Skiles a chance to power down.

Center Ben Wallace will sit out tonight's contest in Toronto, while Joe Smith figures to play more against the Raptors than he does Saturday when the Bulls host Indiana at the United Center.

"We had a very spirited workout again today," Skiles said following Thursday's practice. "At this point of the season, practice is just as important as these exhibition games. I'm pleased with the way things are going.

"I'm looking around the league and I feel like we're doing what a lot of the good teams are doing and that's stay away from big injuries, get our work in and get ready."

According to Skiles, Wallace earned the night off by working so hard this month.

"He was very good defensively last game," the coach said. "He's been unreal since the start of camp."

Giving Wallace and Smith some rest this weekend also opens more minutes for Joakim Noah and Aaron Gray. The two rookies will get their first experience of back-to-back NBA games with travel in between, something that rarely occurs in college.

"I like to travel and I like playing games," Noah said. "I wish we could play every night. I'm saying that now. Come February, you never know what I'm going to be saying. But right now the more games the better because it's more experience."

Noah admitted he's still having trouble learning the plays, a typical rookie malady, but he said Skiles has encouraged him to stick with it.

"The point guard or coach will call out a play and you don't know where you're supposed to be," Noah said. "Sometimes that's tough and it gets frustrating."

Skiles praises rookie: Is coach Scott Skiles beginning to warm up to rookie center Aaron Gray? Skiles has been downplaying Gray's chances of earning significant minutes, then he had this to say Thursday:

"For a young guy like him who is big and has a skill set, he's a quick learner," Skiles said. "You can tell that he wants to learn. So we'll keep teaching him. He may end up being a bigger factor for us than we realize right now, who knows?"

Gordon still sitting: Ben Gordon is expected to sit out this weekend's contests, increasing his total to five preseason games missed due to a sprained left ankle.

"I agree with the way he's approached it," coach Scott Skiles said. "I don't see the point right now of him playing. Let's say he played 15 minutes and rolled it again -- now we're bumping up into Halloween.

"I think he's doing the right thing. And he's getting better every day. I also know that if this was opening night, he'd play. It's not the time for that right now."

After this weekend, the Bulls will have two preseason games remaining -- at Dallas on Tuesday and against Milwaukee on Thursday -- before opening the regular season Oct. 31 in New Jersey.

Bull horns: The Bulls moved up the departure time of Thursday's flight to Toronto in an effort to avoid high winds at O'Hare. … Thabo Sefolosha (right-hamstring strain) could see his first game action of the preseason tonight. Adrian Griffin (sore back) still has not practiced with the team. … According to Florida Today, the Orlando Magic was informed that former Bulls forward P.J. Brown has decided to retire.