Bulls downplay Big Ben headband fiasco

Updated: November 27, 2006, 6:52 PM ET
Associated Press

DEERFIELD, Ill. -- No headbands, no problems.

Marc Stein's take
When the Bulls inked Big Ben to a $60 million contract to become the team's main attraction, praises were made and deep post-season predictions were handed down. But the Wallace era in Chicago is already getting off to a rocky start with the starting center and coach Scott Skiles butting heads. Whose side should you take? Marc Stein has his answer here.
• What's Skiles' deal?

That was the message the Bulls sent Monday afternoon, two days after Chicago center Ben Wallace flouted a team rule against wearing a headband during a game.

Wallace was benched Saturday during a 106-95 victory over the New York Knicks for wearing the red headwear, which runs afoul of a rule set by executive vice president of basketball operations John Paxson. A team meeting was held and the issue will be resolved quickly, Bulls coach Scott Skiles said Monday.

"I look at it like these things are, most times, inevitable," Skiles said. "This happens in pro sports. These things come up."

Paxson said he didn't like the cavalier way Bulls wore headbands when he took over for Jerry Krause in April 2003.

"It's not meant in any way to stifle anybody's individuality or creativity," Paxson said. "It was just simply part of a structure we were trying to create."

Wallace did not practice Monday after an MRI on his right wrist -- which was banged up in the Knicks game -- showed no significant damage. He declined to comment through a team spokesman.

The reigning NBA Defensive Player of the Year has struggled to fit in with his new team after leaving the Detroit Pistons for a four-year, $60 million contract. The 32-year-old center is averaging 5.5 points and 9.2 rebounds a game and the team's defense looks worse than last season.

Media reports in Chicago have indicated Wallace is unhappy with his new team. He has reportedly butted heads with the team on other issues, like playing music in the locker room, and has had problems with other coaches in the past.

Skiles and Paxson said they had a telephone conversation with Wallace on Sunday and don't believe the headband was a rebellion against the coach.

"I'm going to talk to Ben again and see if there's more to this than the headband issue," Paxson said.

While Wallace has struggled, so have the Bulls. Skiles hopes the conflict wakes up his young team, which ended a six-game losing streak and closed out a disappointing 1-6 road trip with the win over New York. The Bulls are now 4-9.

"I don't think it's the worst thing in the world for them to see some confrontation like that, as long as it gets resolved. I think it's something we can all learn from."


Copyright 2006 by The Associated Press

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