12.25.07

Vecsey : Skiles Was The Scapegoat For Paxson’s Moves

Posted in Basketball at 12:17 pm by

Though acknowledging “when salary caps and guaranteed long-term contracts can’t be easily consumed, the coach is considered extraneous”, the New York Post’s Peter Vecsey (not responsible, I admit, for the outta context headline above) reminds us that aside from whatever else deposed Bulls coach Scott Skiles did wrong, we wasn’t the GM.

Three years ago, the Bulls won 47 games with the above mentioned core, plus Eddy Curry and Tyson Chandler. Last season they won 49 games. In between Curry forced a trade to the Knicks that yielded Tim Thomas, the No. 2 of ’06 and the No. 9 pick in ’07; Chandler was dealt for P.J. Brown and J.R. Smith, and Ben Wallace was signed to $60M, four- year free-agent contract.

What do the Bulls have to show for that? Thomas was waived long after being sent home by Skiles. Smith was traded to the Nuggets for a pair of second rounders and Howard Eisley. The No. 2 pick was used to take LaMarcus Aldridge and sent him to Portland for Tyrus and Victor Khryapa. And last June’s No. 9 selection got them Joakim Noah.

Don’t look now but Aldridge is precisely the type of player the Bulls would love to have patrolling their paint . . . and they wouldn’t have had to trade two of their top six for, say, Pau Gasol.

“Looks like we finally returned the Portland favor from 84!” a Bulls official laments.

Brandon Roy might have also helped from that ’06 draft. No, nobody knew he was going to be All-Star good when the Timberwolves tabbed him and traded his rights to Portland for Randy Foye. But we all kinda knew Roy was 6-foot-6 and a smooth operator and Chicago’s backcourt remains conspicuously undersized.

What’s more, why delete Chandler and add Tyrus, an obvious long-term project, and the 6-foot-7 Wallace who had the benefit of the 6-foot-11 Rasheed Wallace playing alongside him when the Pistons won the title, when you’re trying to compete for a championship in the present?

Looking back (which helps a bit, I admit), of all the moves John Paxson made would anybody do any of them?

Though the Chicago Tribune’s Sam Smith alleges Ben Wallace told Paxson “He (Skiles) quit on us, so we’ve quit on him”, a direct quote from Big Ben is far less illuminating (” “How would I characterize my personal relationship with any coach?”). Yahoo Sports’ Kelly Dwyer hints that Skiles’ taskmaster rep might make him a better fit for the amateur ranks.

Losing games early in the season was a Skiles trademark, but this year’s model seemed to be losing by more points than in years past, and every rotation player saw his contributions falter as the team limped along. Youngsters like Tyrus Thomas and Joakim Noah were yanked in and out of the rotation in what appeared to be borderline-arbitrary moves. Griffin went from receiving DNP-CDs to starting to taking in DNP-CDs again in one four-game stretch, and the offense was by far the league’s worst.

Skiles’ NBA future seems pretty grim at this point. He did nothing short of a remarkable job in 2004-05, and should have won the Coach of the Year award. He constantly had these Bulls overachieving and rarely taking nights off in a league that takes entire weeks off at a time. He knows the game, doesn’t destroy players on the sideline or in practice, and has taken two teams (Phoenix being the other) into the second round of the playoffs.

But the stereotype that followed him into Chicago four years ago, that of a coach who will burn out and lose his players after a few strong years, hasn’t been affected. He seems the perfect college coach at this point, which is a shame, because the man truly knows the NBA game. Jerry Reynolds recalled an anecdote during a Kings broadcast last night where he had to ask Skiles — then a point guard for the opposing team — to explain the proper way to run a play to Rodney McCray, then playing under Reynolds for the Kings. The dismissal was needed, but it doesn’t make it any less unnecessary.

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