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Skiles, Wallace butt heads in win
Red is a bold color, which made Ben Wallace's decision all the more glaring.
Blatantly defying coach Scott Skiles' team rule prohibiting headbands, Wallace broke one out to match the Bulls' road uniforms Saturday night at Madison Square Garden.
A much-needed 106-95 victory over the Knicks that snapped the Bulls' six-game losing streak now will serve only as a partial tonic to a much more flammable situation. Thirteen games into a four-year contract that will pay him $60 million, Wallace and coach Scott Skiles are at odds.
One night after Wallace played a season-low 19 minutes, 38 seconds, Skiles removed Wallace just 2:02 after tipoff for breaking the team rule.
Is Skiles' worried Wallace' insubordination will become an issue?
"No," he said after the game. "I don't know why. I'm just not."
Skiles wouldn't comment on why his rule is in effect. Wallace wouldn't comment on if he agreed with it.
"Man, I don't care about that," Wallace said. "All I know is we got the win."
Asked if he understood why he was benched, Wallace looked downward.
"Ask [Skiles]," he said. "Coach makes the decisions. I just play."
After Wallace was removed, assistant Ron Adams went to talk to him. Fellow assistant Pete Myers, Wallace's closest confidant, subsequently followed suit. Finally, assistant Jim Boylan, Skiles' right-hand man, visited him. And, still, the headband remained.
When Wallace finally removed it, during a deadball situation with 2:41 left in the first quarter, Skiles called for him to re-enter. He did so with 1:45 left in the first quarter and played 14:36 in the first half, grabbing four rebounds.
But the turmoil didn't end there. Wallace slipped the headband back on just before the second half was set to start. Skiles immediately sent Malik Allen to the scorer's table before play began.
When Wallace again removed the headband during a timeout with 5:46 left in the third, he re-entered just 81 seconds later.
At this point, Boylan had taken over as coach after official Tim Donaghy ejected Skiles with two quick technical fouls 56 seconds into the third.
In all, Wallace played 29 minutes, finishing with five points and seven rebounds.
After the game, the Bulls had a team meeting for 25 minutes.
"We want to make sure everybody is on the same page," guard Kirk Hinrich said. "Hopefully we will be.
"Ben wants to win just as much as anybody on the team. He has a track record. He has won a lot of games in this league. He has a championship. We're glad to have him. It's just something we need to work out."
Given that the incident came on the heels of a game in which Skiles benched Wallace for the final 17:44, questions about Wallace's happiness are legitimate. Asked before the game why Wallace hasn't played like, well, Wallace, Skiles painted a positive picture and even supported his beleaguered center.
That contrasted sharply with Skiles' tight-lipped nature afterward. Players tried to diffuse the situation.
"Communication is the key," P.J. Brown said. "And we still have communication. But rules are rules. You have to abide by them."
The Bulls built a 24-point, first-half lead and withstood a furious, fourth-quarter Knicks rally to avoid another winless extended November trip. The Bulls went 1-6.
"Any win right now is important," Skiles said.
The Bulls scored 35 points off 26 Knicks turnovers, and both Allen and Brown contributed mightily in Wallace's absence. Allen scored 11 of his 15 points before halftime. Brown had six rebounds.
Luol Deng led the Bulls with 24 points, while Hinrich added 21 points and eight assists.
The Knicks ripped off a 21-11 run to open the fourth and halve their deficit, and then pulled to within 98-93 on an Eddy Curry dunk with 1:46 remaining. But Andres Nocioni, who had 19 points and seven rebounds, hit two free throws with 1:23 left and then took a charge from David Lee to right the ship.
Before the game, Skiles listed six specific problems when asked what ailed the defense.
"There's many more, but I thought I was boring you," Skiles said, smiling.
The Wallace situation is no laughing matter.