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No surprise this week. The questions have cascaded in: When are the Bulls going to play Viktor Khryapa more? Nah, it's just like old times. Like Michael storming out of practice or Horace upset or Rodman going berserk. It's Ben Wallace all the time. If I can sum up here: Headband rule, stupid. Ben Wallace, stupider. That's about the general consensus I've gotten this week. Of course, it's not about the headband, which is just an ornament, anyway. Wilt wore one for looks. Bill Walton wore one for protest. Slick Watts wore one for sweat. Eddie Robinson wore one as an earring. No one needs a headband, though since I have little hair I'm not considered an authority. Ben Wallace is melting down from pressure we didn't realize he'd feel with his new team and contract. And playing like crap. So he's lashing out. There will be more incidents. You can count on that.
Just wondering about this whole headband saga surrounding Ben Wallace and the Bulls. I'm not really concerned about the politics of it all, but do you believe that Ben Wallace needs to be angry to play at the level we have seen in previous years? It seems in the past he had something to fight for, but now as he has the superstar contract he appears to meander as he has proved his worth. Keep it real. --Martin, Melbourne, Australia
That's the story I've been selling as a possible light at the end of the tunnel. It's always difficult for me to understand the lack of personal pride and allowing minor issues to get in the way. If I took a new job, the first thing I'd want to do is my best to show I was worth it and to live up to some standard with my new coworkers. First impressions mean a lot. So it was baffling to see Wallace come in with this amazingly large contract and not seem to care the least bit. Some players get their final contract, which this will be for Wallace, and lay down. We assumed this was the last guy to do that, but he's yet to prove us right.
Don't you think that management should admit that this no headband rule is dumb and forcing players to tape their ankles is also pushing it. At least now I know why Wallace has not been playing like himself, but it's not like he is playing with his shorts around his thighs. How about banning those awful tattoos!! Now there is a rule I could go for. --Fausto, Quito, Ecuador
That's the point, in a way, though I don't care for that shorts around the ankle image. It's not about the headbands as you can always find a rule you don't like. I hate having to be on deadline and get my story in before it's done. Why isn't Wallace upset they won't let him shoot at a five-foot basket from two feet away so he wouldn't be the worst free throw shooter in history. What about banning tattoos? Imagine the ruckus. We are a society of rules and laws. When they don't make sense, you work within the society. Ben's outburst was about Ben, which is most disappointing.
Scott Skiles impresses me. Wallace tested him a few times Saturday night against the Knicks and he passed each one. To take him out of the game for violating the rule once is big. Letting him back in only when he got back in alignment with team rules is bigger. Maintaining consistency of enforcing the rules later in the game and then again allowing Wallace to rejoin the game when he got back in alignment was amazing. Many coaches, especially those of Skiles ilk (I'm imagining Bobby Knight), wouldn't give Wallace a second chance and have benched him for the game. I think the Knicks game was a big win for the Bulls because it created a new level of understanding between the coach and the Bulls most important player. --Matt Ahrens, San Carlos, Calif.
That's an interesting take and I believe the one the Bulls are hoping is the most accurate. It all comes down to Wallace. As I've written, I don't see what else the Bulls could have done here. Kids test parents all the time, students test teachers. Once you show weakness and give in, what's next? Wallace has pulled these kinds of stunts for years, Pistons friends tell me now, but it was overshadowed by a kindly media and fan base and the team's success. They pulled off the greatest coverup since the Kennedy assassination. But, frankly, is there one Bulls player now who could replace one Pistons player in the starting lineup? Ben was under no pressure and is just cracking a little with the pressure to lead this Bulls team. So he acted out like a child. Nothing he says suggests he will stop. The Bulls can only hope he appreciates what they did for him and his family with that contract, effectively earned when he played for the Pistons, and comes again to care about team and winning more than Ben Wallace.
This development is really too bad because it threatens what seems to be the only intangible that has previously separated the Bulls from the rest of the league: team unity. It makes me wonder, with the most recent post-Jordan rebuilding plan focused exclusively on "team first" players, how did Pax rationalize Wallace's history of self-centered misbehavior? Do you think that management's excitement over finally having the cap space to land a marquee free-agent, and having that player genuinely reciprocate that interest in playing here, might have blinded them from Wallace's past? It just seems a little naive to think that Wallace's ego would blend in with this group of ego-less former collegiate All-Americans. When the Bulls took on Rodman they had Jordan, Pippen, and Phil to mitigate Dennis' eccentricity (not to mention the often-overlooked Jack Haley). Do think the Bulls can tame the beast in Ben, or will he be gone by the trade deadline? --Matt McCreary, Chicago
It's all up to Wallace, and I am growing somewhat less optimistic, though not giving up. I wouldn't be surprised if he'd like to get Skiles fired, which is not going to happen and inappropriate for a player just coming in. I think Paxson did what the rest of us did: Felt the team reached a certain point where one player, no matter his personality, would make a big difference. Look at what Rasheed Wallace did for the Pistons. They were not a championship team before he got there and many doubted he'd be more than a distraction. Sometimes you have to take a chance and got for it, and you can't fault the Bulls for trying that. It's also why it's so hard. You never truly know what's inside a person until he's with you like you never truly know your neighbors because you aren't in their home all the time.
The Bulls should do everything in their power to trade Wallace, not exacerbate the problem by continuing to build around him. As a lifelong Bulls fan, I would rather see them finish in the lottery than win a championship with that jerk. --JT, Chicago
I've gotten a fair amount of these. I think it's more disappointment given such high hopes coming into the season and the notion that Wallace was a warrior. For the fans, I think the worse part is less the internal friction, which we've seen even in the championship years, than the fact that Wallace has played miserably and rarely even looked like he was trying.
I know you're a busy guy and must read a lot of crap emails so let me get to the point. Ben Wallace and his massive ego are making this team much less fun to watch than the past two Bulls teams. I always enjoyed the heart and desire they showed before acquiring Wallace. I didn't get mad when they lost because they always fought hard and left it all on the court. With Wallace there isn't the same overall frantic determination or desire I've seen in the past. It seems this guy cashed in and is now going through the motions, playing below expectations and crying about crap like not being able to wear a headband. I'm so sick of it already. This is what I hate about sports, multi-millionaire athletes making fortunes to play a kids game who just don't get it. I work 60 hours a week and work when I'm sick, and wear a uniform I don't like. I do all of my work for less annual income than "Big Ben" makes in interest in a single day on his yearly salary. I can also draw a comparison. I hate wearing my nametag. If I don't wear my nametag I get written up. If I talk back to my boss, I get fired. Period, end of discussion. Who does this guy think he is? When I pay what little money if left over each month in Satellite fees to watch every single Bulls game, seeing a guy like Wallace makes me sick. He is the anti-Bull. He is the opposite of everything the Bulls have said they wanted to be about in recent years, and I'm mad. I would do anything I had to, if I could get a guy like Dwight Howard or Emeka Okafor. I'd give anything to live the life these guys get to live. If Wallace is going to disrespect the franchise and the team's fans, then bench him, fine him, or trade him. --R. Steffen, Q. Creek, Ariz.
Thanks for the passion. Sometimes I think teams don't understand quite the passion and understanding of its fans. No, the fans don't usually know the intricacies of the X's and O's, but they know and appreciate the game. I believe they loved the way this Bulls team has been built and coming together, which is Wallace's greatest sin. He acted selfishly on a team built otherwise. It's been asked why he didn't know about team rules and the way Skiles might be. What he clearly doesn't understand is the unselfish commitment that's been preached. His actions, whether a rule about headbands is stupid or not, were all about him at the expense of everyone on the team and in the organization. That is the biggest thing he'll have to get back. Sorry, no one is about to get Howard or Okafor and I think the Bulls still can have success this way, though Wallace will need to care about more than the way his hair looks.
I expect the majority of your emails are going to be about Ben Wallace this week (not that mine is any different), but please hear me out on this one. I do not understand Skiles' "Accountability Rule" when the man who preaches it doesn't even follow suit. It seems that Skiles tries to avoid controversy with his coaching decisions rather than hold accountability for his actions. He stated after the Philadelphia game that the team's poor defense was due in part to their relying on Ben Wallace too much. On the contrary, instead of benching the players that performed as Skiles mentioned, he benches Ben Wallace?!? Clearly, Wallace just wasn't performing and was benched rightfully so, and instead of being forthright about it, Skiles blamed others on the team. If this whole accountability issue is going to be preached, I think it should start from the top. And as for the Ben Wallace controversy, I'm proud to say that I was one of the few who did not support the signing this off-season. I'm a Tyson Chandler fan. Can you please send a personal "thank you" to John Paxson for bringing in a player that completely contradicts the philosophy that he has been trying to follow during his tenure as Bulls GM. In the past, he was successful for getting rid of "bad seeds," who could have contributed, such as Tim Thomas. Well Pax's coveted free agent he signed is a player that has publicly lashed out on his previous coach and draws a resemblance to an inept child that pouts when they do not get the ball in the playground. Good luck to Pax trying to get rid of this bad seed, because it looks like he's stuck with him for the next 4 years at $60 million. How good does Tyson Chandler look in a Bulls uniform now? --Jorge, Tinley Park, Ill.
Ouch! But look, the way it was going with Tyson it was going to end up badly for him and the Bulls and he had to go. Perhaps other than you, I didn't hear anyone else complain about losing Tyson. It's interesting you point that out about Skiles since I really felt he was trying to cover for Wallace more than he usually would by blaming other players. Frankly, I wouldn't have blamed the others more than Wallace as every game every team came right at Ben and he just stood around like a lost puppy. That's what surprised me even more that Wallace was upset with Skiles.
What's up with Skiles? Ben Wallace has been wearing a headband forever. He needs to just let it go and let him wear it. He needs to stop worrying about Ben Wallace and his headband and start worrying about how to win some games. --Bobby Strnad, Tinley Park, Ill.
As I've said, it's more complicated than that and good there's elastic in headbands as this thing is going to stretch out for months.
We must wait a little bit to see what Ben Wallace is going to do. He's played only 13 games. We must take into consideration that he changed teams. It's very hard for a player to leave a team and go to another. He needs time to get used to the team. I believe he will play like the days he played for the Pistons. And about the headband, it's wrong to say that this is a childish act. Mohamed, Beirut, Lebanon
I'm glad to hear your perspective and it would be nice if people in your part of the world all had your patience. Of course, so would it if people in the U.S. did too, but that's another story. I tend to agree that we need to give Ben more of a chance to adjust. It's just too bad he couldn't wait a few weeks as well knowing the team committed to him for four years. I can't see it other than as a childish act since now my kid is getting upset when I won't allow him to wear his headband in the bathtub.
Rules are rules, and dress codes are relatively common for business. But this is basketball and that's one of the reasons headbands are made. Now for an organization to treat a well-regarded player like this over a headband shows no class while it claims the opposite. Do you think players around the league are going to want to play for us after this? Chicago deserves better. Why doesn't the organization focus on championship rings instead of headbands, untucked jerseys and hairstyles? Think Paxson and Reinsdorf fear the fro? What a bunch of jerks. --Gerard Staszak, Tinley Park, Ill.
Yes, this issue has produced a lot of reaction and emotion. What will silence it is Wallace playing well and the Bulls winning. Then it will be laughed about. But no one has been laughing lately.
I don't get why Skiles had to bench Big Ben for wearing a stinkin' headband. What's the reason for that rule anyway?!? If it helps Wallace play like his usual self, I say scrap that stupid rule and just let the man wear a headband. --Rimo M. Rico, Manila, Philippines
As my mother would say when I'd offer some unwanted opinion, another country heard from. Is this big in the Philippines? You guys have hotter weather, so perspire more and need headbands. I actually wore one once when I was in my 20s. It was the 1960s and it was required dress for the revolt we were planning against America. One thing I'm guessing is Ben gets a big headband contract (if not a big head) and TV ad out of this.
Have to say that I don't always agree with your comments, especially when you try to trade half the roster for a 30-year- old KG, but at least you come up with some scenarios to try to improve the team. I know you received lots of Skiles questions last week, but in light of the headband incident last night with Ben Wallace, don't you think it's time for Skiles to get the boot with Pax going with a more established coach that can take us to the conference finals? --Omar Abdel-Hady, London
This is the inevitable other part of the debate. Well, if we keep Ben then Skiles has to go. Skiles has hanging over him the reputation from Phoenix that veterans won't play for him, though guys like Antonio Davis were big boosters when they were here. The Ben-Skiles thing could bubble up again this season, but I get the sense the Bulls like what Skiles has done so far and aren't the kind of organization to have players, in effect, make personnel decisions. Michael Jordan often complained he couldn't, so I'm guessing Wallace's actions make Skiles more secure.
Do you think it's time to call Larry Brown? At least he knows how to get something from Big Ben. --Alec, Wheeling, Ill.
I know that's never going to happen here, and the irony is Ben was one of the leaders of the revolt against Brown that eventually ended in his being bought out after going to the Finals in consecutive seasons.
Sam, you assume that everyone thought the Ben Wallace signing was a good idea. Oh, contraire! Some of us thought it was too much money on a guy who was probably past his prime and who thrived in a particular system with players with whom he was familiar. Plus, he added no offense to a team that needed someone to shoot. Though I really like Paxson, I'm always amazed that guys who have been around so much can be so wrong about players, especially Bulls GMs, e.g., Chandler, Curry, Brand, Smith, Wallace, Gordon and a host of others. Heck, you might even do a better job, though I'm dubious about your strength as a trader. --Jeff Hartnett, St. Louis, Mo.
In other words, let you do it. I admit I thought the Wallace signing was a good idea even though I didn't lobby for it or have it as one of my priorities last spring. I didn't think he'd leave the comfort of Detroit where he was so popular because what more can you do with $60 million before taxes you can't do with $48 million? I am always wrong on this because logic eludes NBA players in these situations. It's always the money, I have to remember. And the alternatives were guys like Przybilla and Mohammed or Al Harrington, the latter another small forward. So it sounded right: Get toughness, if not scoring, have depth, cause turnovers for easy points. Hey, it's still November. It still could work.
Does it make sense for the Bulls to have a rule about headbands, when their billboard on the Northwest Tollway has a 20-foot-tall Ben Wallace wearing, you guessed it, a red headband? Scott Skiles needs to get a life, if there was ever a more stupid rule. I like Scott Skiles as a coach, but is he related in anyway to that coach they had before Phil Jackson, he seemed to have a similar problem seeing the forest for the trees. --Loren Karnick, Palatine, Ill.
Yes, astute readers have noticed Ben with a headband on the pocket schedule and advertising signs. A little embarrassing for the Bulls, but that's marketing, which doesn't work with the basketball operations and doesn't ask for approval of what it does. Since those ads and schedules had to be done before the players came in, they used old Pistons photos with a Bulls uniform over it, the magic of technology. It is a team rule, by the way, and not Skiles'. Teams have all sorts of rules on times to be at the game, when to be dressed, how to dress. The NBA has rules, his wife probably has rules. If you can compare Skiles to Jackson, that's probably the best thing you can say about him for Bulls fans. Wallace has made the issue he and Skiles and, unfortunately, it will become the focus of a lot of the season.
What are the chances that the Bulls' talent has just been over-hyped and overvalued? They lack defensive stoppers on the perimeter, and with the exception of Gordon, are not a very athletic team. Adding Wallace pretty much makes it a four-on-five game when they are on offense. I hate to beat a dead horse, but under the premise that the Bulls are stuck with Wallace, wouldn't you trade anyone, including Hinrich, to get KG? --Chris, Orlando, Fla.
Perhaps, though it ain't over yet. Did you expect the Magic to be contenders like this thus far? The East playoffs will be wide open and I'd be going for Garnett. If they can get him to take the pressure off Wallace, I think we'd see more of the old Wallace. Hinrich is almost impossible to trade because of the rules regarding his extension, but almost anyone else would be in consideration if the Bulls don't start winning soon.
Given the Bulls' poor start, isn't it about time again to explore a trade for Kevin Garrnett who is wasting away in Minny? The Bulls desperately need some an inside threat offensively. What say ye? --Keith Arbanas, Cartagena, Colombia
Now all we have to do is get Minnesota to agree with us.
Can Ben Wallace be traded to another team if it doesn't work out with the bulls? Which teams will be candidates for Big Ben and what we could receive in return? --William Blanco, Bayamon, Puerto Rico
Maybe for Nazr Mohammed, eh? It's interesting the Pistons let him go so easily and perhaps the Bulls should have taken notice. But you sometimes turn your eye toward the obvious when you have a chance top date the prettiest girl in the class. The Pistons had gotten sick of Wallace's acting out from his refusal to return to a game in April to his mutiny against Flip Saunders in the playoffs. They didn't want to pay him as much as the Bulls did, though I agreed he was more important to the Bulls than the Pistons since the Bulls still hadn't won a playoff series. Win one, get more season ticket commitments, etc, and it pays for itself. I doubt they could trade him at that salary unless they took someone like Marbury or another player with a bad contract. They'll have to ride it out for a while.
I think we should forget about passing the first round of the 2006-2007 playoffs. Skiles' ship is sinking Right now and we should think about changes! We over-paid Ben "declining" Wallace. Certainly, next season, we won't find a team to trade him! What can we do? I'm my opinion, another rebuilding process is on our way. --Antonio Souza, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
No, please, not another rebuilding. We've seen too many. I agreed it was time to end that cycle and will still give up draft picks for players. The East is down, the league is flawed. They should try to win now and I believe they still can. Don't give up hope yet.
Do you think Big Ben thought the grass looked greener on Chicago's side until he got over there and found there ain't no grass? Anyway, who's Ben Wallace? --Barbara McCuin, a Piston Fan, Detroit
Or headbands, as it turned out. As for who he is, that's what we'd all like to know. Bulls management, too.
Wow. Bulls fans across the world are panicking about the circus road trip that kills us every year? Are ya'll serious? Sam, it's time to point out the obvious. Until the circus stops coming to the U.C. and forcing an unnaturally long road trip unnaturally early, the Bulls are always going to start the season unnaturally poorly. Get off Skiles. The Bulls are a top 3 team in the East, and Skiles/Pax have earned a full season to demonstrate that. --Greg, Richmond, Va.
There you go, a lone voice in the depressed wilderness. Good for you because there are about only 68 games to go. Bulls win them all and they break the 95-96 team record.
I am sick and tired of people suddenly bad-mouthing Scott Skiles and John Paxson. There is no one I'd rather have coaching my Bulls than Skiles, and there is no one who gets Scott Skiles-type players better than John Paxson. These guys have been so great they deserve a little confidence in the face of adversity. Do people really think they know the Bulls better than Scott Skiles? Considering how much I'm hearing all this negativity from people, is there a polite way to tell them they are knee-jerk idiots? --Michael Brenner, Chicago
Scott could help you do that. Though in a perverse way he does seem to enjoy the fight and the controversy. One thing I know from being around him, he's sure he's done the right thing.
The NBA loves statistics. The league seems to measure everything, and keep track of everything. Why then does the NBA not know how tall some of its players are? I have read that Ben Gordon is 6-foot and that he is 6-3. How is it that the Bulls and the NBA don't know Ben's exact height? --Pete Gannaway, York, Penn.
They do, but they're not telling. Ben measured 6-1 at the NBA predraft camp. With shoes you usually add about an inch. He likes to be listed higher and since it's no big deal to the Bulls, they do it. All teams do. Ben Wallace is listed at 6-9 and now admits he's 6-7. You usually take at least an inch off most listed NBA heights, 2-3 for college. Centers, though, are sensitive and often list lower as Bill Walton never wanted to be seven foot and listed at 6-11. Kareem also listed smaller because he probably was 7-4.
Part II runs tomorrow