After coming off the bench for his first two games, new Hawks guard Kirk Hinrich will make his first start Wednesday night at Philips Arena. He’ll do it against his old team, the Chicago Bulls.
Hinrich won’t have the benefit of having forward Josh Smith in the lineup, however. Smith, who sprained the medial collateral ligament in his right knee against Denver Monday, tried to practice at the Wednesday morning shootaround but was in too much pain.
Since acquiring Hinrich in a trade that sent Mike Bibby to Washington last Wednesday, coach Larry Drew had been starting Jeff Teague to give Hinrich time to acclimate. Drew said he felt Hinrich had learned enough of the team’s plays and defensive schemes to start.
“I want him to get acclimated as fast as he can,” Drew said. “He’s going to be my starting point, so I kind of want to throw him not the fire and get him into a role that he’s going to be in for the remainder of the season.”
Hinrich missed the Denver game with a sore right calf, but practiced Wednesday and said he will play against the Bulls, for whom he played his first seven seasons in the NBA before getting traded to Washington last summer.
“We’ve got a tough schedule coming up this month but we have a lot of home games,” Hinrich said. “Hopefully we can take care of business. If we hang our hat on our defense like we did there the last three games of the trip, we should be O.K.”
Drew did not have a timeline for Smith’s return. He is considered day-to-day. Drew said he actually thought Smith would be able to play Wednesday prior to the shootaround.
“He said some of the swelling has gone down from [Tuesday], but he went out there and shot a little bit and it didn’t feel right,” Drew said.
Not having Smith in the lineup complicates matters against Chicago, which has a formidable front line with center Joakim Noah and forwards Carlos Boozer and Luol Deng. The Hawks will start Jason Collins at center, Al Horford and Marvin Williams at forward and Joe Johnson and Hinrich at guard.