Late in Monday night's 101-77 loss to the Indiana Pacers, Kendall Gill rose from his seat near the coaching staff and moved to lie alone on the floor at the end of the bench, near the ballboys.
The move spoke louder than any public statement about coach Scott Skiles' decision to make a five-man substitution and keep four starters on the bench for the final 21 minutes 50 seconds of the Bulls' 11th straight loss at Conseco Fieldhouse.
Privately, players alternated between confusion, bemusement and amusement, even faking rookie Kirk Hinrich into thinking that Skiles had called for him to enter the game midway through the fourth quarter.
"What are you going to do?" Gill said afterward. "The whole year has been up and down. I don't have anything to say. Just play the season out."
Skiles made his move after becoming upset that only Antonio Davis crossed halfcourt to foul Reggie Miller on a breakaway layup with 9:50 remaining in the third quarter.
Indiana led 57-36 after Miller converted two free throws, one from Davis' foul and one from a technical foul on assistant Pete Myers.
Out came Hinrich, Davis, Jamal Crawford, Eddy Curry and Linton Johnson. Only Johnson played again.
It was the third five-man substitution of the 54-game Skiles era. But it was the first time no veteran startersand few veteran reservesreturned.
"It's common sense," Skiles said. "We were down [less than] 20 and we turned it over and they threw it end-to-end and laid the ball in and nobody ran back. That's an obvious move."
Did Skiles consider bringing the starters back for the fourth quarter?
"Not really," he said. "I'm operating under the assumption they were too tired to go."
Players disputed that notion.
Did Tuesday's home game against New Jersey, the Bulls' fourth in five nights, play a factor?
"Not really," Skiles said. "I'm frankly surprised by the question if you watched the game, honestly. We're down by 20 fairly quickly in the third. If I let it go to 30 without doing something, I'd be answering a different question, I'm sure."
Indiana, paced by Miller's 17 points, used a 16-4 first-quarter run and 14-3 second-quarter spurt to build a 49-32 halftime lead.
The Bulls, led by Curry's 13 points, failed for the fifth time to post their first three-game win streak this season. And this with the Pacers' Jermaine O'Neal playing just 11 minutes before spraining his knee.
Ronald Dupree, Jannero Pargo (12 points) and Paul Shirley played more than any starter.
"Crawford could've came in and got things going," the Pacers' Ron Artest said.
Shirley severely bruised his ribs late and Skiles put in Jerome Williams, who had to first remove a wrap from his knee and then limped from pain from a recently removed ingrown toenail.
Tyson Chandler had fouled out earlier, drawing a flagrant on his sixth and prompting Skiles to dust off Eddie Robinson, who had played 34.9 seconds in the previous 11 games.
"I'm not going to criticize what the coach is doing," Davis said. "There is a fine line between trying to teach and getting guys to understand he won't accept [less than] your full 100 percent. And we're not giving it to him."
Several times in his Bulls coaching tenure, Skiles has claimed not to have a doghouse.
Public statements notwithstanding, what he had Monday night was a field house of upset players.Copyright © 2015, Los Angeles Times