Updated: Nov. 17, 2006, 11:31 AM ET

Bens but don't break

The Chicago Bulls added Ben Wallace, with his $60 million pricetag. He was the centerpiece of widespread offseason changes in the roster. Big moves, indeed.

After Thursday's 101-100 loss to the Houston Rockets, in which their best weapon Ben Gordon (37 points) rallied them from a 21-point deficit, the Bulls fell to 3-5.

This apparently is not enough early success for some observers.

However, if anybody expected them to come out firing on all cylinders in the first month, they were na´ve. I'm not sure anybody should have expected them to click this soon. The fact of the matter is, anybody in his right mind sees eight new players on a roster, they know it is going to take some time to get them together as a team.

I had somewhat of a similar situation coaching in Boston as Scott Skiles is having now. After we made the Eastern Conference finals in 2002, we lost all semblance of a rotation through roster changes, though we still had a nucleus like Chicago does.

Before Thursday the Bulls ranked 22nd in field-goal defense (after leading in that category last year), and that's not because Skiles forgot how to coach defense. He's got a whole new set of players. Twelve Bulls logged time on the court Thursday night.

That includes Wallace. No one questions his worth as a shot-blocker and his strong work on the boards.

But he's not going to help them offensively, and I think he already does detract from their offense, dropping in one point in 35 minutes against the Rockets.

A little too much is being said about what he's expected to bring to Chicago. Even though he was a very important part of the Pistons, we need to remember that team had players considered among the best if not the best, at their respective positions: point guard (Chauncey Billups), shooting guard (Rip Hamilton) and power forward (Rasheed Wallace). And Tayshaun Prince was their best player in the playoffs.

So you can talk about Wallace as part of a great team, but we have to remember he's not Shaquille O'Neal or Yao Ming.

And we have the matter of working in the new players. Look at this game against Houston, in which they were outscored 30-13 in the second quarter. In one stretch, Tyrus Thomas, Mike Sweetney, Viktor Khryapa made up the frontcourt. All are playing together for the first time this year.

They're solid players. Thomas is going to be a hell of a basketball player.

Right now, we're not even a tenth of the way into the season. It's not until you're 30-35 games into a season that you'll begin to see who's going to emerge as the elite teams.

Skiles knows they'll need good depth to go deep in playoffs. I think they're going to be strong down the stretch, and the changes this year are really going to pay off next year.

By the end of this season, they'll be a great defensive team by the playoffs -- players like Thomas and Khryapa I think will be on board by the end of the year. For this year, it looks like, in the East, the Bulls will be in striking distance for contention.

You could look at their season playing out a little like this Rockets' game. A rough first half, but after 48 minutes they found their way, coming all the way back and ending up in position to succeed.

Jim O'Brien has 30 years of coaching experience. He has taken both the Celtics and Sixers to the NBA playoffs.

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Invaluable Assistants
The Musselman
Rocky Widner/NBAE via Getty Images
Sacramento Kings head coach Eric Musselman sits on the bench alongside his two sons before the game against the Golden State Warriors. Their late grandpa Bill was also an NBA coach.

Observation Deck: Pro Shop
Jason Hart

HART'S CONDITION: All young players who are complaining that, "I can't play my game because coach is messin' with my minutes" should watch the contributions Jason Hart made in the first half for Sacramento at Golden State. Has not seen any action this year, yet was thrust into the track meet disguised as an NBA game and was totally prepared to help his team on both ends of the floor.

Beaten out by a second-year player (Ronnie Price) has not kept Hart from staying mentally focused and prepared to play whenever his coach gave him a chance. We call that "being a pro." Take notes young'uns. -- David Thorpe

DA MEAT HOOK KNOWS: One of my former high school players from the late 80's was playing for the best pro team in Latvia a few years ago. He called to tell me about a skinny left-handed kid on his team. Said he had a motor that didn't quit and once he learned the NBA style he'd be a legit starter for years. Dametri Hill was right, because Andris Biedrins is all of that, and maybe more. -- Thorpe

GOT GAME: Kobe Bryant apparently sent a new Playstation 3 to each of the TNT hosts. "People never send this stuff to poor people," Charles Barkley declared, wallowing happily in the swag. -- Andrew Ayres

Firing Line: Odds On Killing The Czar And His Ministers
Mike Fratello

Mike Fratello, Grizzlies
The Czar of the Telestrator opened the offense up Wednesday night in Sacramento and let his team run, but the result was an all-too-familiar L on the ledger, dropping Memphis even further into the cellar as the team with the league's worst record.

One thing working in Fratello's favor is the calendar. No big changes are expected in Memphis until after the sale of the team is complete, and right now owner Michael Heisley is waiting until Dec. 1 to see if his minority partners will match the purchase price offered by an investor group led by former Duke player Brian Davis. If the minority owners pass, and the sale to Davis' group occurs, it will go to the league's board of governors for approval. Until then, everything is on hold.


Doc Rivers, Celtics
We were all set to make Doc the odds-on favorite, but then his team went and crushed the Pacers by 26 on Wednesday night, prompting us to contemplate adding Rick Carlisle to this list.

We do know for certain that Boston's owners are getting restless in their fifth year, and we also know that the longer Rivers sticks around, the longer Danny Ainge will have a blame buffer keeping him out of the firing line. It might be easier for the Celtics to shake things up with a trade, but something's got to give fairly soon despite Rivers' recent statement that he "loves" this team. ODDS: 5-2

Full Chris Sheridan story Insider

The Dread Baron

Baron Davis' 36-point, 18-assist, eight-rebound night in Golden State's win prompted Ron Artest to declare, "I probably should have guarded Baron from the beginning, but it's a team effort."

Warriors win fourth straight

The Middlemen
Ming and Wallace
Bill Baptist/NBAE via Getty Images
Yao Ming (20 points and 12 rebounds) shoots over Ben Wallace (1 point, 5 rebounds). Houston outrebounded Chicago, 48-35.

Extreme Behavior
Baron Davis

Thursday's Best
Warriors guard Baron Davis: Goes off for 36 points, 18 assists and eight rebounds. Sets career high in assists in 117-105 win over the Kings. Warriors are 6-3.

Kenny Thomas

Thursday's Worst
Kings forward Kenny Thomas: Commiting six turnovers in 17 minutes is no way to go through life. Especially when you're playing your NoCal rival Warriors.

Quote of the Day
"It's mind-boggling now -- back-to-back -- to have such a lead and then let it evaporate like that."
-- Rockets guard Rafer Alston, whose team almost blew a 21-point lead to the Bulls after coughing up a 19-point lead to the Spurs.

See how all 36 who played stacked up

-- Andrew Ayres

Stein's Rank Comments
'Kevin Martin

Aman Chabra (Rexburg, Idaho): I'm happy to see Sacramento has moved up in your power rankings, but explain to me why your commentary seems to be so negative when the Kings really are playing well right now. Kevin Martin should be on the short list of MVP candidates so far and no mention is made of him!

He's showing all the experts -- namely yourself, who picked us to finish near the bottom of the Pacific Division -- that we really don't miss Bonzi that much. I don't mean to sound hostile, but I really can't stand it when my Kings play hard and are winning against all odds and fail to get any attention.

Committee's counter: It's a pretty easy explanation: The commentary wasn't negative at all. It read to me like we were praising the Kings for their winning streak in the face of several potential distractions. As for the new K-Mart: My problem with the Kings' decision to let Bonzi Wells go had nothing to do with Kevin Martin, who's obviously deserving of a bigger role.

My problem with letting Bonzi go was using that money to sign John Salmons. I don't think Bonzi, had the Kings re-signed him, would have stunted Martin's development. And I still think Sacramento, to be a playoff factor, has a clear-cut need for Bonzi's ability to rebound, occupy defenses with his inside game and create shot opportunities for guys like Martin.

Full Marc Stein blog Insider

Being Like Michael (Adams)
Carmelo Anthony

Carmelo Anthony has a chance to tie a Denver franchise record Saturday against Toronto.

Anthony scored 34 points in Denver's loss Wednesday at Orlando. It was Anthony's fifth straight 30-point game, the longest such streak for a Nuggets player since Michael Adams did it in five consecutive games in 1990-91. Anthony is one shy of the Denver franchise record held by Alex English, who scored at least 30 points in each of six straight games in 1982-83.

Elias Says

Rush To Rookie Judgments
Brandon Roy

Jack (NY): Chad, can you remember a weaker rookie class (maybe 2000 with K-Mart and Mike Miller)? If Brandon Roy isn't fully healthy this year, is it conceivable that the one-dimensional Adam Morrison could win the award?

Chad Ford: Wow … that was quick. While I agree with you that this class probably won't produce many superstars … the kids have been all right. Morrison is heating up, Roy looked good before his injury, LaMarcus Aldridge has been more than solid since coming back from one, Rudy Gay's had a few good games. Let's revisit this during the All-Star break, but I don't think it's as bad as you make it sound.

The full Chad Ford blog Insider


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