I'm told he's having more milk-and-cookies breaks in practice. I think he's simplified things some, especially with the fast break, and changed some lines the big men run from end to end, when they do, as Skiles would note. Though it would seem more that the players are more alert and responding now that they've been put on notice. There's always a honeymoon period with a new coach. Let's see after a dozen or so games.
Any truth to the rumor I'm hearing that Skiles was fired after telling Paxson he could not win with this group of players? If true, it was typical Skiles, brutally honest, sometimes to his detriment. True or not, Paxson must realize there are some on this team who need to go and that this team still is lacking in enough talent to be really good. --Eric Harrell, Crownsville, Md.
I think it was something like that. There was more to it, of course, but in a sentence, the coach and general manager disagreed. Each felt the other needed to do a better job. As I've said, Skiles is like Larry Brown or Doug Collins. Brown tended to fix your mess and wonder how he had done it with whom he had. When he couldn't change the roster, he'd be out. Skiles seems to see it much the same way, though it's not like many coaches have long tenures anywhere. If someone can make progress, he's done well.
I have to say over the last four games, I've been impressed with this team. Even though I liked Skiles, I think it was time for him to be cut loose, especially with his style of doing a five-man substitution and not getting the younger guys like Sefolosha the experience they need. Do you believe the rotation will open up to see Sefolosha start at shooting guard? --Bryce T. Englin, Yokota AFB, Japan
Sefolosha, by all internal accounts, was a quivering mess under Skiles. I think they're giving him time to decompress and then perhaps another shot, though starting might be too much for this season unless he truly impresses. Going into the season they hoped he'd be that big guard at times to send Gordon to the bench. I think there's again that hope.
Whoa, Samuel. Heretofore you seemed a little too quick to dismiss the quick release or trade or whatever of J.R. Smith, and you seemed to say that "the Bulls" decided that Tyson Chandler didn't fit. Now you write that "the Bulls, in fact, were burned a little too much trying to accommodate Skiles' coaching style, having let J.R. Smith and Tim Thomas go for nothing and agreeing to deal Tyson Chandler." Are you writing revisionist history? --Richard Lachmann, Honolulu
They say journalism is history in a hurry. I did agree with some of the moves because I believed players like Smith wouldn't work here and would cause more problems than he's worth, and he's been no prize in Denver. I liked Chandler, but they'd recently re-upped with Skiles, and the Bulls were trending up. Chandler wasn't, and the Ben Wallace signing seemed to address the Chandler deal with the kind of veteran they didn't have. I've written that the Bulls believed they tried to accommodate Skiles too much, perhaps slanted the team too much that way and shouldn't do that for any coach because any coach is generally short term. I would not have kept Smith and didn't believe Chandler could play here at a time it appeared Skiles would be here two to three more years.
Who are the likely candidates to replace Skiles next season (Boylan excluded)? --Rahul Chatterjee, Los Angeles
I can't even guess now.
It seems to me that the biggest problem the Bulls have is the decline in Hinrich's game. Beyond the turnovers and foul problems, you have a guy who is no longer a viable scoring option. Is there an explanation for his decline, and do you get a sense of the coaches trying to do something about it? --Alex, Boston
No one is really sure. He's not a pure point guard, so Boylan has made the adjustment to use Duhon that way more, though as we can see Duhon's shooting remains a big issue. Until the Bulls get a true point guard, Hinrich is the best they have, and I'd stick with him. Plus I think his shooting will improve and, his defense remains good.
Who will be the "big trouts" in the free-agent pool? --Rui Teodoro, Alpiarça, Portugal
Not sure the Bulls can fish in that pond. The biggest ones are the players with opt-outs, and most teams won't take them. These include Brand, Arenas, Marion, Iverson, Baron Davis and Jermaine O'Neal. All could re-sign with their own teams. Corey Maggette and Ron Artest could leave. The unrestricted free agent class is limited, led by Antawn Jamison.
Why don't the Bulls play with an 11-man rotation? They have the deepest team in the league. Thomas, Sefolosha, Griffin and Gray should be playing, not riding the bench. They've been tired down the stretch recently, so why not go to the bench early and often, with Noah, Tyrus, Thabo and Griffin in addition to Nocioni and Gordon? --Ethan, Philadelphia
I can see Boylan trying to win over the veterans first. There aren't many coaches who are facile enough to use a deep bench. It's usually veterans like Phil Jackson and Hubie Brown. I thought that would be an advantage for the Bulls this season, being able to overwhelm teams with depth. But the coaches lost confidence in the young guys, and it will take time to get that back.
Will the Celtics break the Bulls' single-season wins total? --Jim Harlan, Chicago
No, which is the same answer I gave about this time in 1996 when the question was raised about the Bulls winning 70 games. But the Celtics have been amazingly successful. They're undefeated against the West, and after the relatively soft opening schedule, they swept the four games, including a Lakers-Jazz back-to-back. That's impressive. Ask me again in March.
Mickael Pietrus wants out. Why don't the Bulls give up Duhon for Pietrus, as the Bulls need a bigger 2 guard and the Warriors need a backup point guard? --Josh Roels, Glenwood, Ill.
The Bulls actually thought about drafting Pietrus when they took Hinrich. He likes to shoot a little too much. The problem is you need his permission for a trade in his fifth season because he has to yield his Bird rights and has said he'd only give it if guaranteed a starter's job and 35 minutes. I doubt the Bulls would do that.
I am going to go out on a limb here, but I watch every team play on NBA League Pass every night. And right now, I would easily say the Bulls are one of the worst teams in the NBA. I am tired of people making excuses. We are horrible, no offense, a so-so "we try really hard but don't get the job done" defense, and we were so enamored of the team last year, we passed up any good trades. Everyone's stock is down, and Deng just got hurt. Please be sensible and agree with me that not only are we going to miss the playoffs, but we will have a lottery pick come draft day. --Jonathan McGraw, Chicago