Monday, March 08, 2004

Skiles Over Substance

I'm back after a fun weekend in Columbus, Ohio. Why was I there? To watch the Big 10 champs of course. 3 out of 4 years as champs, but the first time since 1952 they've had it all to themselves. I just thought I'd start off with that to rile Aaron or any other Big10 basketball fan who's reading. Although I'll admit that winning the league this year is like being valedictorian of summer school.

I have to admit that my Bulls-watching has steadily faded in the past few weeks. Partly because I've been busy (well not in the classic sense...mostly wasting my time in other forms), and also because down in Champaign (did I mention home of the Big10 champs) we get only half of the games. So its been only through the papers that I learned about the recent iron-fisted rule of coach Scott Skiles and GM John Paxson.

It started with the benching of  Tyson Chandler last week over his uniform attire. Then there's been the complete disappearance of Eddie Robinson from the rotation. He has played 34 seconds in the last 4 games. In a story that has been told all to often under Bill Cartwright, E-Rob is again finding himself maligned on the bench while less talented players take his minutes. The odd part is that his play this year has been his best as a Bull, and the main reason for it being that he was healthy and finally getting some minutes. The athletic, defending wing player that has been exactly what Paxson's been looking for. So why is he back on the bench?

Robinson said he would continue to follow his same pregame and post-practice routines. Robinson claims the approach works for him.

"What do you mean, extra work?" he said. "I shoot. I do all of that."

Said Skiles: "I think his comment speaks for itself."

Skiles then elaborated on the situation.

"Couldn't anyone say that I want to do something because this works for me?" he said. "That doesn't work in a team environment. People have to make personal sacrifices for the well being of the team. And I think for the most part our guys are beginning to understand that.

What can you say to that. Eddie Robinson is the type of player that fans HATE. He looks apathetic when he plays, he admitted he doesn't want to attack the basket out of fear of injury, skips summer workouts, and has a pregame routine that for some reason cannot be tampered with. I'm selfishly mad at Skiles for benching Robinson because I love watching him play, but the message is more important. E-Rob isn't the type of player who deserves special treatment based on performance. This isn't the same deal as letting Allen Iverson skip practice. Skiles says it best:

"This is not a unique team. Guys are expected to get their lifts in, play team basketball, play hard—just the basics of the game. It's not some crazy standard some lunatic coach is setting. We're trying to set a program in place that's going to last over time, no matter who plays for the Bulls. I'm going to see to it that it gets done."

That says it all doesn't it? This season is lost, its time to firmly implement the Skiles/Paxson regime into this team. That means getting a head start on a new attitude and commitment to improving the work ethic and conditioning of the young nucleus. Guys from the minor leagues like Linton Johnson and Ronald Dupree have been brought in (with more possibly on the way) to keep these games and practices meaningful. If you've been reading me for the past few months you know that I normally frown on a talented player getting benched for those who possess 'intangibles'. That said, for Curry, Chandler, Crawford, Robinson......they are being shown by Skiles and Paxson that whatever they've been used to should be forgotten, this summer will be different. And that includes Robinson's pre-game 'ritual'.