The Bulls made another player move Monday and this one has more to do with the long-term future than the playoffs.
They released forward Tornike "Toko" Shengelia and signed former Houston forward Greg Smith for the remainder of the season. Smith was released by the Houston Rockets just last week, so he's not eligible to play for the Bulls in the playoffs, and he was considered out for the season with a knee injury anyway.
But if he can get healthy, Smith should fit into the Bulls' future plans. They likely will part ways with Carlos Boozer this summer, leaving Nazr Mohammed, who turns 37 in September, as the only backup big man, and he's also a free agent.
The Bulls must have done a pretty good sales job, because there was thought to be interest in Smith around the league.
"We're excited that he's with us," coach Tom Thibodeau said before Monday's game against Orlando. "When he was healthy, he played very well. We feel we're fortunate to have been able to pick him up."
Because of the knee issues, Smith played in just 11 games this year. Last season he was a productive backup for the Rockets, playing in 70 games while averaging 6 points and 4.6 rebounds in 16 minutes. He also shot 62 percent from the field.
According to draftexpress.com, Smith measured 6-feet-10 in shoes, with an impressive 7-3 wingspan, at the 2011 predraft camp. He also delivered a max vertical leap of 35.5 inches, which is very good for someone his size.
After playing two years at Fresno State, Smith was not drafted. He played in Mexico and the D-League before being signed by Houston on Feb. 8, 2012. Smith is a native of Fresno and played with Indiana Pacers forward Paul George during his first year of college.
Shengelia was well-liked in the Bulls' locker room, but he appeared in just nine games this season, strictly in garbage time. His season highlight probably was an alley-oop dunk off a pass from D.J. Augustin late in the April 5 win at Washington.
Shengelia was on the team for payroll-tightening reasons. The Bulls simply saved money and stayed out of the luxury tax by trading former first-round pick Marquis Teague to Brooklyn for Shengelia, a former second-round pick.
Thibodeau picks fight:
Coach Tom Thibodeau was asked before Monday's game to name his biggest surprise of the season. As usual, he chose to look at the big picture.
"We took a lot of hits early on. I think the fight has been great. I think the growth has been great," Thibodeau said. "I look at each one of our players and I'd say they all had major contributions to the team, being able to overcome the circumstances we were in.
"You have to make a conscious decision as to what you're going to do. Are you going to curl up in the corner or are you going to come out swinging and fight? That's what these guys have done and I have great respect for that. And we're still not done. I still think we can improve."
Eye on Oladipo:
Orlando played without veteran point guard Jameer Nelson (groin strain), which gave rookie Victor Oladipo another chance to play point guard. Heading into Monday's action, Oladipo ranked second among rookies in scoring (14.0 ppg), third in assists (4.1) and led in field-goal percentage (.421).
He probably will finish second to Philadelphia's Michael Carter-Williams for rookie of the year.