Skiles' overreliance on 'grinders' can hamper Chicago
Posted: Tuesday May 15, 2007 1:16PM; Updated: Tuesday May 15, 2007 3:11PM
Scott Skiles is pretty firmly entrenched as the Chicago Bulls' coach for the foreseeable future. He acts as an extension of GM John Paxson while working from courtside, and he has the attention of the team's fan base after three straight trips to the playoffs. Skiles also has the respect of Bulls chairman Jerry Reinsdorf after going toe-to-toe with the team owner during contract negotiations two years ago.
Best of all, he's one of the best coaches in the league, able to pull a MacGyver routine with the most unorthodox and/or unappealing of lineups, and eke out a hard-fought win (or close loss). Skiles' teams work hard for him, they rarely quibble with his rotation choices and the results nearly speak for themselves.
But he's not without fault. Frustrating, wearying, predictable faults. Skiles loves his plucky underachievers, the kind of players who can't keep up with the NBA's best and brightest in their finest hour, but manage to stay on the court for quarters at a time despite a scoreboard gone sour. Players such as P.J. Brown, Chris Duhon and Andres Nocioni have earned Skiles' respect -- and with good reason -- and he affords them solid minutes as a result.
And yet, you get the feeling that somehow Skiles would prefer to make a good go out of a game with these tough players rather than back (luck, ease, however you want to term it) into a win with some of his roster's flightier talents doing the damage. Skiles' bottom line is winning, make no mistake, but he'd much prefer to grab the W on his own terms.
Which is nice, and pretty typical for each NBA coach, but with Skiles it can also be a chore to observe. Skiles routinely fields lineups that don't appear to have a chance at scoring 15 points in a quarter, but because they execute and work on defense, he's able to argue away the roster decisions.
Nocioni is a good example. The third-year Argentine forward works as hard as anyone in the league on the defensive end, but he (and, one would guess, the Bulls) too often mistake activity for achievement. Nocioni has been wrongfully regarded as a stout defender just for the sheer hustle and attention he puts into each defensive possession. But he's not a good defender. He roams, gets caught out of position, forces his teammates to cover and too often gets beat after making a silly defensive mistake (especially when he's playing out of position at small forward).
This has been especially apparent during these playoffs, where Nocioni has looked out of place more often than not. Observers may point out the plantar fasciitis injury that sidelined him all of March and the beginning of April, which is likely the reason he hasn't found the rim in the postseason (37 percent from the floor, 33 percent from long range). But basketball players suffering from plantar fasciitis aren't often seen trying to block a jump shot on the perimeter, as Nocioni has been guilty of, or trying to drive pell-mell toward the rim into a phalanx of defenders. Credit his moxie, but in this state, he's hurting the Bulls.
1 of 2