Monday, June 06, 2005

Skiles fever: avoid it!

Ok, I feel shamed by the fellas at since they are blogging up a storm about the Scott Skiles contract negotiations and here I am twiddling my thumbs enjoying playoff basketball without a care in the world.

I've already directed you toward their site, but since then there have been 2 more developments since that post. The first was in response to  MyManSam(tm)'s take on the subject, equating Skiles to..Larry Brown?

Skiles is something of a Larry Brown lite, a knowledgeable, hard-working motivator who'll make your team better almost immediately, but who is destined to leave before his time. Skiles and Brown are even represented by the same agents, the Glass family of Joe and Keith.

goGPonus writers have their go at it, questioning Sam's motives (in my opinion I think he's just shooting from the hip), and cautioning the idea of the Bulls management thinking the team is ready for another coach:

I am not sure if we are talking about a Collins to Jackson style jump for the team. For one thing, this team is not sitting on the cusp of greatness like that team was with Michael, Scottie, and Horace. Sure this team is pretty good, and is sitting on the step ready to make the next step, but I do not think the next step they make is an NBA Championship; it is winning a playoff series.

So while Skiles job was to take them from Point A to Point B and hopefully to Point C, I don’t know if they are sitting at Point B where they can reasonably think they have the talent to win a Championship (though they may have the talent, it just is too young and immature) and a coaching move can take them from Point B to Point C. Right now, they are probably sitting just underneath Point B, and Point B would happen when they win a playoff series.

This hits it right on the head. For those not fully versed in Chicago Bulls lore (and that pretty much includes me, as I was but a spry young boy back then), the day Phil Jackson replaced Doug Collins is widely seen as the day the Bulls became a championship level team. But while Collins' last team had the same record as the 04-05 Bulls, that team made it to the Eastern Conference Finals. As noted in the selection above, this team isn't there yet.

Skiles' agent (the aforementioned Keith Glass) was on WSCR this afternoon, and again goGPonus was all over it. They link the .mp3 clip of the interview, and transcribe the juicy parts. Basically...the man is very pessimistic that an extension will be signed before the season. Skiles has already said that he will not negotiate during next season, so it's looking possible he will soon be wearing the scarlet 'L' for lame-duck coach.

Glass gives very few specifics on why the negotiations go sour, and that leads to speculation (and get ready for another Mariotti column) that Bulls owner Jerry Reinsdorf is the one souring the deal.

But until we know the specifics, I will play devil's advocate. I know its easy to expect Skiles to get whatever he asks for, but Reinsdorf can't just hand over a blank check. If he wants more money, how much? If he wants more security, how many years? Would you sign Skiles to a 5 year deal at $4m per? I sure wouldn't if I were Reinsdorf. This may be interpreted as cheap, but try and not be naive about the nature of contract negotiations. Reinsdorf is also the guy who paid out millions of dollars to players who didn't suit up for the team (E-Rob, Pippen, Mike Wilks) because they no longer fit into what Paxson wanted on his ballclub.

I'm sure GM John Paxson wants Skiles around, based on their shared philosophies and the importance of continuity on a young team. Reinsdorf has a track record of spending money and believing in Paxson's judgement.

Skiles seems like he wants to be around. Being head coach of this young, talented, and soon to be under-the-cap team is a hell of a situation, and Skiles has mentioned numerous times how this job lets him be closer to his family in Indiana. And also, I would think he'd like to take the next step with the young players he's successfully groomed over the past 2 years.

But in contract negotiations, sometimes the situation can get heated. Things are said only later to be taken back, and deadlines are made only later to be extended. Figures and details compromise. The parties involved compromise.

So this is why I'm not hanging on every word of the Skiles negotiations. One reason being that other bloggers are providing top-notch coverage. The other is that while I have no inside formation, I am still confident that something will get worked out. Nobody (even the print media it seems) knows how close or far Skiles and management are to achieving a deal. Stories that come out hours from eachother are contradictory in tone and content. So who am I to pretend I can guess what is happening behind the scenes?

At the very least Scott Skiles will be head coach of the Bulls for the 2005-06 season. And if the team falls apart because of his lame-duck status, then he must not be that fantastic of a coach anyway. I do think he's a great coach, though, so I would prefer he sticks around. But negotiations are never easy. Trying to cover them might be just as tough.