CHICAGO — Dennis Smith Jr. was back in action for the first time since Oct. 26 — albeit in limited action and with less than ideal results.
The Knicks activated him for the first time since he left town to be with his family following the sudden passing of his stepmother. Smith returned to the team Friday in Dallas, but had not played as he tried to work his way back into shape. He played 14 minutes, was 0-for-3 with three turnovers and was a -22 as the Bulls had runs of 14-0 and 22-0 that centered around his time on the floor.
“Just tried to impact the game with speed, just add some speed into the game.” Smith said. “I know my rhythm and all that is going to come back. It’s going to take time, but I’m grateful to be playing.”
Barrett challenges himself
RJ Barrett has found himself in a confounding slump from the free-throw line and perhaps a not-so-surprising slump on his overall shooting. The 19-year-old rookie shot 66.5 percent at Duke in his one college season from the line, but is shooting just 44.3 percent in his first 10 NBA games, including 1-for-8 in the last two games before Tuesday. He entered the night shooting 40 percent from the field, but just 32.5 percent over the last six games. He finished with 21 points on 8-for-16 shooting with nine assists against the Bulls.
"I’m good, man. I like the challenge. Like I said, it’s an 82-game season. You’re going to have a couple bad games. I was able to be aggressive and get back to myself.
Asked if he was concerned that the free-throw line struggles were getting into Barrett’s head, Fizdale said, “I don’t think it’s in his head. It’s just a matter of technique and him constantly staying with it. Nothing’s going to shake that kid. I just deeply believe we’ve got a guy, he’s steel, an even-keeled kid. If something’s not going well he doesn’t panic. He just works at it.”
On the mend
Mitchell Robinson was on the court at the United Center working out before Tuesday’s game, but remains in concussion protocol and is a possibility for Thursday’s game at Madison Square Garden against the Mavericks.