During practice, is Scott Skiles practicing along with the team, or is he the type of coach that just teaches with his clipboard? --Dee Singh, San Jose Calif.
Scott has practiced with the team twice since he took over as coach and, despite joking that he'd be sore to do so again, he survived both just fine. But those are just novelty appearances that he did for fun and because of injuries. He's a teacher who leads practice in his sweats with a whistle. When he did practice, I wonder if he reminded everyone that he still holds the NBA record with 30 assists in a game.
the Bulls this season and have seen their style of play change ever since Chris Duhon was inserted in the starting lineup. Have you seen the same? --Darrell, Compton, Calif.
The Bulls are 21-10 (entering a Thursday game against Charlotte) since Duhon went into the starting lineup. But I don't think you can give him all the credit for changing a style of play. He's an excellent team defender, but his skills wouldn't mean much if Chandler and Curry hadn't started clogging the paint, etc. This is a team effort, not one player.
I recently heard that the league has cleared Ron Artest to practice with the Pacers. Assuming the Pacers make it to the playoffs, is Artest eligible to return to play? Does an addition like that, so late in the year, have a major effect on team chemistry? Thanks for your brilliant insights. --Scott Orians, Chicago
First of all, the only time I have brilliant insights is closing time. Second of all, Artest isn't eligible for the playoffs. In answer to your question anyway, ANYTIME Artest plays, it has a major effect on team chemistry.
I'm the guy who stopped you just before game time in Boston to tell you how much I liked your writing, which I get on ChicagoSports.com. You looked shocked. Anyway, how much more fun is it covering this Bulls team compared to those of recent years, and how far can this team go? --David, Newton, Mass.
I looked shocked because I was wondering to myself, 'How the hell did my Dad make it out to Boston?' I'm not used to compliments outside of my family and sometimes even inside it; my wife still thinks I cover preps and reads about three stories a year. But thanks for the kind words. I get this question a lot, and I have to say that our jobs really don't change much whether a team is winning or losing. Our job is to report the mood of the team and write about its inner workings. That stays the same no matter what the record is.
Now, I'll be the first to admit that a ton more stories present themselves when a team is winning and everybody is happy. Losing can sap creativity at times. But sometimes when a team is spectacularly bad---as the Bulls have been at times in recent years---those teams create just as many stories as winning teams. It has been refreshing to be able to write positive stories after so many seasons of misery.
Jay Williams once said that when he decides to return to the NBA he would give the Bulls "the right of first refusal." Is he coming back for the 2005-06 season? --Maciej, Warsaw, Poland
If he does, the Bulls will take that right of first refusal. I wish Jay all the best. He's worked his butt off since his horrible accident. But the Bulls have no future plans for him.
What do you think was the turning point in the season? --Carl, Winfield, Ill.
For me, there's no question it was when I ordered that chicken enchilada in Los Angeles. Marriott Grill. Spectacular. For the Bulls, it was four days later in Utah when, instead of lying down at the end of a long road trip, they beat the Jazz. Curry and Chandler, pulled from the starting lineup that game, have been solid ever since.
In the Bulls' resurgence, there's been a lot of talk about the contributions and development of the youngsters. But I suspect the veterans are also playing a big role in practice and the locker room. Which vets have contributed the most in this regard? --Thom Yorke, Baton Rouge, La.
My man, Thom Yorke. Next time you ask a question, you HAVE to tell me if that's really your name or if you're just a huge Radiohead fan.
This is going to sound sappy and like a cliche, but all of the vets have contributed in various ways. Antonio Davis is unquestionably the steadiest influence on the younger players, but Adrian Griffin is a respected leader as well. And Othella Harrington is very quiet behind the scenes in helping the big men. Plus, when you see guys like Eric Piatkowski running extra wind sprints at the end of practices after games where he doesn't play much, that kind of work ethic rubs off on everyone.
One of the things I love is Scottie Pippen hanging around the team, going on the road with them and bringing what seems to be a REAL positive influence on the team. Do the Bulls have any plans to get Scottie more involved? Does he want to be on the coaching staff? --Spencer Greenwald, Northbrook, Ill.
Scottie is welcome at the Berto Center at anytime. He's getting paid $5 million to do nothing this season, after all. Pip has mentioned a desire to coach more and more of late but said he'd only want to do so as a head coach. The Bulls are set in that regard.
It seems as if Skiles never seems to get excited about the team, at least in the media. I know that the young guys can get complacent, but is there a danger in this going the other way to the point the players start resenting the lack of praise? --Chris H., New York
I wrote a story about this very dynamic earlier this season, talking about how Skiles and Jerry Sloan walk this line well. There's certainly a danger in that, but you make the perceptive point by adding "in the media." Skiles gives his players positive reinforcement behind the scenes all the time and also praises them in the media occasionally. He's just very honest in his answers so it sounds like he's always negative.
Is it necessary for the Bulls to have what seems to be a three-minute video introduction prior to their starting lineups being announced at the United Center? I believe the introductions would be more crowd-pleasing AND effective if they just cut the lights and got to it like the old days. --Mike, Chicago
And now, the best question of the week, "Miiiiiiiike from Chicaaaaaagoooooooooo."
Thanks for your questions. Talk to you soon.