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Mike was busy yesterday:

Skiles’ jigsaw puzzle: Who starts … who finishes?

Coach Scott Skiles changed the starting lineup Friday, and the Bulls responded with two straight wins.

Was it a brilliant tactical maneuver? Well, maybe, except that the actual starting five has been a bust.

The Bulls have been outscored by 12 points during the 14¨ minutes the starters have been on the court in the past two games.

On the other hand, the Bulls have managed two fantastic fourth quarters while beating New Orleans and Boston to pull within 1¨ games of the final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference.

The Hornets and Celtics shot a combined 26.7 percent from the field as the Bulls rang up a 60-36 scoring advantage in the last two fourth quarters.

Suddenly, that 2005 magic is back. Ben Gordon and Tyson Chandler are starting games on the bench and finishing them with flair. Gordon scored 22 fourth-quarter points in the two games, hitting 7 of 11 shots in the process. Chandler had 7 fourth-quarter rebounds against New Orleans, then blocked 3 shots by Boston star Paul Pierce in the final six minutes of Sunday’s 101-97 victory.

“I don’t know how much weight I would put into (the lineup change) specifically, other than it’s allowed us to have Ben and Tyson in at the end,” Skiles said. “They were in at the end when they were in the starting lineup. Just managing their minutes is a little bit easier when they come off the bench.”
And this on the Magic matchups:

Magic’s size up front likely to offer a special challenge

No matter what lineup the Bulls use, the soft finishing schedule will probably have more to do with a playoff push than any strategy. The final 14 games feature just four opponents with winning records, and already the Bulls are 2-0 during that stretch.

But tonight’s opponent, Orlando, could be deceiving. The Magic (27-43) is a long shot to climb into the playoff race and recently lost 18 of 20 games.

Things started to click, though, after Orlando dumped Steve Francis on the Knicks and acquired Darko Milicic, Carlos Arroyo and Trevor Ariza. The Magic has gone 7-3 in its last 10 games and has shot better than 50 percent from the field in 12 of the last 19 contests.

“I think it’s mostly a willingness to move the basketball,” Magic coach Brian Hill was quoted in the Orlando Sentinel. “Guys don’t care who gets the shot. They just try to find the open guy.”

With little margin for error, the Bulls (31-39) vowed not to look past any opponent, knowing that this week offers three winnable games against Orlando, Charlotte and Boston.

“As long as we compete like we’re on the outside looking in, we’ll be fine,” Tyson Chandler said. “No team in this league can be taken lightly.”
Brian Hanley in the Sun-Times (who didn't write about Sweetney's charge although he mentioned it on the radio yesteday - and mentioned that no one wrote about it)

Gordon on target since coming off bench

Scott Skiles hoped his recent revamping of the Bulls' starting lineup would generate more fourth-quarter offense from Ben Gordon.

So far, so good.

Since Skiles returned Gordon to his 2004-05 role of coming off the bench, the second-year guard has shot 7-for-11 (63.6 percent) from the field in the fourth quarter during the Bulls' two-game winning streak. He had been shooting 34 percent in the fourth quarter before Friday.

Sunday at Boston, Gordon scored 11 of his 17 points in the final four minutes as the Bulls rallied for a 101-97 victory
And it's former Bulls Beat Writer Melissa Isaacson in the Tribune this morning:

Team starting to dig deep in nick of time

Exactly how the Bulls have won their last two games after dropping the previous four is not unimportant to Scott Skiles, but with just 12 games remaining in the season and a playoff berth hanging in the balance, there is little time for the coach to take pride in the process.

"I'm proud of the fact that we were 3½ [games] back and now we're 1½ back," said Skiles, whose team's victory Sunday over Boston, coupled with Philadelphia's loss to Indiana, reduced the 76ers' lead over the Bulls for the last playoff spot in the Eastern Conference.

"I'm proud of the fact that our guys seem to be understanding the critical nature of these games. [But] we can't get ahead of ourselves. We're still at the mercy of a couple teams in front of us. If they continue to win, they can put the pressure on us.

"But at least it's in somewhat our control right now because it's directly in front of us, we're able to play [Philadelphia] twice (in back-to-back games April 5 and 8) and we have to take care of business in these other games."
And a bit on Gordon on the NCAA tournament:

Sunday's game ran opposite the NCAA tournament for a good portion of the game. But Gordon had to be glad he was spared.

"This wasn't the year of the No. 1 seed, that's all I can say," said the former Connecticut star, whose Huskies lost to George Mason. "I'm done for the year. I can't even talk anymore. I'm not even watching anymore."
 

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A story on the Bulls players and the NCAA tournament:

March often makes NBA players mad

Just like a lot of people who dread going home at night and having to tell their spouses about their jobs, NBA players talk pro basketball with the media only out of a sense of obligation.

Stop Ben Gordon after a game and ask about what happened that night, win or lose, and you can tell he would rather just be on his way.

Stop Gordon and ask about his alma mater, Connecticut, in the NCAA tournament, and he suddenly gets a lot more interested.

His eyes light up. A wry smile creases his face. He can get into this conversation.

Gordon spent the last couple of days trying to figure out how the Huskies, the consensus favorite to win the national title, lost in the Elite Eight to George Mason.

Bulls assistant coach Pete Myers was all over Gordon before practice Monday.

"George Mason?! Who the heck is George Mason?! I never heard of them," Myers exclaimed.

Gordon could only smile and shake his head.
There is one Bulls player who is still interested in the NCAAs.

One player on the roster has a stake in the Final Four, although you might not even know he is a member of the Bulls.

Randy Livingston, whom the Bulls signed to a 10-day contract last Wednesday, went to LSU. The Tigers play UCLA in a national semifinal Saturday.

"Things are going good for me right now," said Livingston, a veteran of nine NBA seasons and nine teams. "I'm getting another crack at the [NBA], and LSU's as far as it's been in 20 years.

"To be honest with you, I'm not sure which I'm more excited about."
 

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More stories:


From Southtown Paul:

If the Bulls prove to be as effective on the court as Tyson Chandler is as a prophet, the NBA can call off the race for the final Eastern Conference playoff spot.
Only hours after his team scored a crucial 101-97 victory Sunday at Boston, a confident Chandler reiterated his recent prediction that the Bulls would catch and pass the Philadelphia 76ers before the finish line.

The 76ers own a tenuous 1½-game lead over the Bulls for the No. 8 seed.

"My outlook hasn't changed," Chandler said after practice Monday at the Berto Center. "I felt that way then, and I feel that way now."

Then again, this is the same Chandler who boldly announced his team would qualify for the playoffs in his rookie season (2001-02). The Bulls went on to win 21 games and finish in last place in their division.

"I don't know how much weight I put on anything Tyson says, to be honest with you," Bulls head coach Scott Skiles, wearing a wry smile, told reporters. "But I appreciate the confidence."
More at: http://www.dailysouthtown.com/southtown/dssports/pro/281sd6.htm

And this from the Northwest Herald:

DEERFIELD – The Bulls are the ones in playoff contention heading into tonight's home game against Orlando.

The Magic, though, have something the Bulls wish they had: a budding franchise player.

Second-year big man Dwight Howard has shown signs of fulfilling the promise scouts heralded before the 2004 draft, when Howard went No. 1 overall.

Many of those scouts said Howard, now 20, could become the NBA's next Tim Duncan.

He might be on his way.

"Don't forget, he was a lot younger than Duncan was when he got to the NBA," Bulls coach Scott Skiles said. "You always hesitate to make a comparison like that, but it's not the most outrageous thing I've ever heard.

"He's already a top rebounder and shot-blocker, and he seems like he's improving as a low-post scorer."
Howard, renowned for his work ethic, displays none of the maturity and discipline issues that have affected other young NBA players – at least not usually.

After Howard arrived late for a shootaround before a game last week against New York, coach Brian Hill benched him for the beginning.

"I can't blame anybody but myself," Howard said afterward. "I'm a leader of the team. It's my fault. [Hill] had to do that."

An angry Howard proceeded to score 23 points off the bench in an Orlando victory. The Bulls, who trail Philadelphia by 1 1/2 games for the Eastern Conference's final playoff spot, hope he will not be as motivated tonight.
More at: http://www.nwherald.com/SportsSection/306599049277873.php
 

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"I don't know how much weight I put on anything Tyson says, to be honest with you," Bulls head coach Scott Skiles, wearing a wry smile, told reporters. "But I appreciate the confidence."
Skiles is such a ....

They really don't seem to like each other too much. I suppose, as long as he performs the way he can and should, it doesn't matter.
 

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Good Hope said:
Skiles is such a ....

They really don't seem to like each other too much. I suppose, as long as he performs the way he can and should, it doesn't matter.
"Wry smile" would most likely indicate Skiles was probably joking around. He has a dry, sarcastic sense of humor, at least with the media.
 

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Rhyder said:
"Wry smile" would most likely indicate Skiles was probably joking around. He has a dry, sarcastic sense of humor, at least with the media.
No doubt, he's kidding.

But that kind of kidding is getting pretty edgy. And this isn't the first time Skiles has zinged Tyson. Earlier in the season, he mentioned (joking, of course) that Tyson couldn't be counted on remembering anything from one minute to the next. All too true, I guess. Still, it's a little degrading.

This one, too. It's a joke. But, yeeesh. It's like joking about your wife as a dumb blonde, when she's standing next to you at a news conference. But I don't think Tyson is giggling about it. Could this explain the several "scenes" between Skiles and Tyson. Skiles just keeps those zingers coming....
 

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Good Hope said:
No doubt, he's kidding.

But that kind of kidding is getting pretty edgy. And this isn't the first time Skiles has zinged Tyson. Earlier in the season, he mentioned (joking, of course) that Tyson couldn't be counted on remembering anything from one minute to the next. All too true, I guess. Still, it's a little degrading.

This one, too. It's a joke. But, yeeesh. It's like joking about your wife as a dumb blonde, when she's standing next to you at a news conference. But I don't think Tyson is giggling about it. Could this explain the several "scenes" between Skiles and Tyson. Skiles just keeps those zingers coming....
Tyson has given it right back to Skiles through the media on occasion. I think they are having fun "playing" the media. I somehow suspect their relationship is very good. Tyson is usually the first to run to Skiles after a big win and give him a hug.

I think the relationship between Skiles and Gordon might not be as sweet, but I am of the opinion that Skiles is grooming Ben correctly, no matter how maddening his substitution patterns sometimes get.
 

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Rhyder said:
Tyson has given it right back to Skiles through the media on occasion. I think they are having fun "playing" the media. I somehow suspect their relationship is very good. Tyson is usually the first to run to Skiles after a big win and give him a hug.

I think the relationship between Skiles and Gordon might not be as sweet, but I am of the opinion that Skiles is grooming Ben correctly, no matter how maddening his substitution patterns sometimes get.
That's interesting. I don't recall any shots that Tyson got in at Skiles. Do you recall particulars? Your read on their relationship is quite optimistic, so I hope you're right.
 

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Good Hope said:
That's interesting. I don't recall any shots that Tyson got in at Skiles. Do you recall particulars? Your read on their relationship is quite optimistic, so I hope you're right.
I really can't recall the phrasing of any direct shots, and I don't recall anything this season.

However, some jousting occured last year after Skiles was commenting about Tyson's improved play. The media would reiterate Skiles' comments back to Tyson and Tyson would respond. It usually was with him nodding in agreement, but I do remember him saying something about how he would run Skiles butt off in practice. He's tried to embody Skiles image as well, a couple of times stating that Coach doesn't back down to anyone, and I have to do the same sort of thing.

If I could remember more specifics I could probably find some links, but no direct phrases are coming to mind unfortunately.

It seems that Skiles gets along with everyone on the current team except maybe Sweets and Gordon. Even when making comments about a positive game, he always seems to undermine the accomplishment with these two (he was the same way with Curry last season as well). I don't think he liked Basden very much, or just didn't like his game at all. He started that way with Allen as well, but I suspect Malik was having trouble getting used to our sets offensively and defensively, because all of the sudden it was like a light switch went off.

Kirk, Duhon, and Noc seem to be his favorites, and I see a good relationship betwen he and both Deng and Chander.
 

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I dunno about you guys, but I hate it when TC starts talking too much, because it's almost a guarantee it will take away from his success the next game. How, i don't know, but these two factors seem to be mysteriously correlated, at least for me. Jeez, just shut up and play Tyson.
 
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