- The Washington Times - Tuesday, December 5, 2006

The Draconian nature of Scott Skiles was exaggerated last week when he removed Ben Wallace from a game for violating team rules by wearing a headband.

In fact, the Chicago coach was not enforcing one of his rules but one handed down by the team’s front office, according to a source with the Bulls.

General manager John Paxson made the rule when Jalen Rose, Eddy Curry and Eddie Robinson played for the Bulls and had trouble wearing their headbands correctly. They often wore them over their ears or around their neck, and Paxson thought that made the team look sloppy.

Wallace knew about the rule, and he purposely broke it. He hasn’t said why.

Paxson and Skiles might have relented and changed the rule had Wallace come to them and said it was important to him. They might eventually change, but they can’t now because it would look like they were giving in to their star player.

Wallace doesn’t have to endure much, except for league and team dress codes.

The Bulls fly their players first-class and pay porters to carry their luggage. At home, they provide chefs to cook lunch for the players and hotel suites if players want to arrive early for a game instead of fighting rush-hour traffic.

Wallace’s job is to play hard, and he will be paid $16 million this season and $60 million over the next four seasons for his sweat.

The problem this season hasn’t been Wallace’s headband but his production for the Bulls, who were 7-9 heading into last night’s game against the Boston Celtics.

Wallace, who has averaged at least 11.3 rebounds and 2.2 blocks in each of the past six seasons, is averaging just 9.1 rebounds and 1.6 blocks this season. He had a zero-point, zero-rebound performance Nov. 24 and four more games of five or fewer rebounds.

Wallace refused to comment to reporters last week on his injured right hand, although an MRI on his right wrist showed no significant damage.

The most telling statistic for the four-time defensive player of the year might be his age: 32. It is possible Wallace’s dominant seasons are behind him and the Bulls paid for past performance.

Meanwhile, Tyson Chandler — the player the Bulls traded to create room for Wallace — is averaging 12.2 rebounds. He is 24 years old.

With the headband controversy put to rest, Paxson and Skiles are hoping Wallace can do the same with his sub-par play.

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