Their coach is gone, and the Chicago Bulls know he might not be the only casualty of their disappointing start.
Two days after Scott Skiles was fired, the Bulls hope to begin turning around their season when they visit the defending champion San Antonio Spurs on Wednesday.
The Bulls (9-16) have reached the playoffs the last three seasons and came into 2007-08 with high hopes after advancing to the second round last season. However, they currently own the third-worst record in the Eastern Conference, and the team is hoping a change at the coaching position will help.
“I felt like something was going to happen,” forward Luol Deng said. “I didn’t know whether it was players or coaches. But you could definitely feel there was something. It just didn’t seem like we were on the same page.”
Skiles went 165-172 after replacing Bill Cartwright in November 2003. The Bulls didn’t immediately announce a replacement, and general manager John Paxson said he does not expect to hire a coach until after the season.
Assistants Pete Myers or Jim Boylan will likely take over on an interim basis, and Myers will coach the team against the Spurs.
“I don’t have a long-term solution as of today,” Paxson said. “I’m disappointed in the way we’re playing, the way we’re competing, the energy or lack thereof that we’re playing with on the floor. I know expectations coming into the year were really, really high and we’re not even close to those. I honestly believe we’re a better team than we’ve played this year.”
Skiles’ firing could be a sign of more changes to come if the situation doesn’t improve.
“Our players now are put in a position where they have to look in the mirror and see what they can do to get this back on track,” Paxson said. “The message wasn’t being received by them. A lot of the pressure is on them right now.”
The Bulls have lost three of their last four and were booed by the home crowd throughout Saturday’s 116-98 loss to the Houston Rockets. Kirk Hinrich had 22 points and Deng added 21 for the Bulls, who are shooting a league-worst 41.3 percent and rank second-to-last with 92.0 points per game.
Ben Wallace returned to the lineup after missing two straight games with bone spurs in his left foot but did not score and had only five rebounds in 28 minutes.
“I wouldn’t say we stopped playing for Scott,” Hinrich said. “Every time I go out there, I’m playing for my teammates, my coaches. We should all be in this together.”
The Bulls’ first game without Skiles likely won’t be an easy one. Chicago has dropped 14 of 17 against the Spurs (19-7), including seven of eight in San Antonio.
However, the Bulls did win 99-87 at home on Jan. 15 last season in the last meeting between the teams.
Parker had missed four games with a sprained ankle before returning Saturday, finishing with 18 points and six assists in a 99-90 win over the Los Angeles Clippers. It was just San Antonio’s second win in six games.
Ginobili, though, left in the first quarter with a sprained left index finger. Second on the team with 19.2 points per game, Ginobili originally injured the finger Dec. 2 and had been trying to play through it.
“His hand’s been bothering him for a long time,” Spurs coach Gregg Popovich said. “The X-rays are all negative, but the ligaments are in bad shape. It’s like a sprained thumb, sort of. You keep hitting it and hitting it and it never gets healed. … He’s back to square one.”
It’s unclear if Ginobili will be able to play Wednesday.
Tim Duncan, who missed four games earlier this month with a sprained ankle, had 34 points and a season-high 18 rebounds Saturday. He’s averaged 28.7 points and 16.3 boards over the last three games.