(Michael is stepping in for Sean Mullin during his sabbatical)
When Scott Skiles took over for Bill Cartwright as head coach of the Bulls, Skiles claimed that he had learned from previous coaching experience when to push a team and when to back off. Just last week, however, as young and naive center Eddy Curry showed up on the practice floor somehow "forgetting" to tape his bad ankles, Skiles made the entire team run until Curry's ankles were fully taped.
Rarely in the NBA does a teammate get punished for another's wrongdoings because it usually ends up bringing hostility toward the coach rather than the player. In high school and college, the military-like tactics generally bring a team closer, but the need for ego massaging in the NBA has led to subtler approaches such as Phil Jackson's reading assignments on road trips.
Nevertheless, Skiles made public his view that a lack of effort by one player will affect the whole team. So far, the approach is working, and surprising many in the league. NBA veteran and current Bull Kendall Gill was interviewed shortly after the Curry debacle. Gill expressed his displeasure in having to put unnecessary "extra miles" on everyone's beat up bodies, but his disappointment was focused on Eddy Curry, not on Scott Skiles.
Gill may not have realized it when he said it, but his comments carried a lot of weight. If the young teammates follow his lead, the Bulls will become an actual team that matures throughout the season, realizing that actions have consequences. Had Gill questioned Skiles' methods, the Bulls head coach might have lost the command he desperately needs to get Chicago to a playoff-caliber level.
The Bulls will not be sniffing the playoffs this year and they haven't exactly set the world on fire, but winning 4 out of 7 is a start. When 2003 draft pick Kirk Hinrich is almost 2 years older than 3rd year players Eddy Curry and Tyson Chandler, it's obvious that there is time for improvement. The question is whether the youngsters can improve while competing at the NBA level, a problem many players have failed to overcome. Staying in college has enabled Hinrich, a player with far less natural talent than most NBA players, to develop an NBA ready game. If he can translate his experience to the raw talents of Curry and Chandler, Chicago might just see the playoffs before Skiles leaves town - that is, as long as Kendall Gill keeps agreeing with him.