Daily Confidential

The Chicago Bulls and New York Knicks are both struggling on the court. A growing controversy between a key player and the coach may be giving each team an even bigger headache.

The teams meet Tuesday in Chicago for the second game of a home-and-home series.

The Bulls beat the Knicks 106-95 in Saturday's game at Madison Square Garden, ending a six-game losing streak and an eight-game road skid. Luol Deng led Chicago (4-9) with 24 points and nine rebounds, and Kirk Hinrich added 21 points and eight assists.

Former Bulls guard Jamal Crawford led the Knicks (5-10) with 26 points off the bench.

New York's Stephon Marbury and Chicago's Ben Wallace each spent significant time on the bench Saturday. Wallace was benched for breaking a long-standing team rule on the ban of headbands, while Marbury's lack of effort seemed to be the reason for his benching.

Wallace finished with five points and seven rebounds. He began the game wearing the headband, was removed early in the quarter, then came back in without the headband. At the start of the second half he once again was wearing the headband, resulting in coach Scott Skiles sitting him down before sending the veteran center back on the floor later in the game.

Skiles and vice president of basketball operations John 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.

Saturday's performance came a day after Wallace was held without a rebound against Philadelphia, the first time he's failed to grab one in a game he started.

Wallace didn't discuss the headband issue after Saturday's game.

``We got a win. That's all I know,'' he said. ``I don't know. Coach makes decisions. I just play.''

Wallace signed a $60 million contract with the Bulls during the offseason after six years with the Detroit Pistons. He led them to an NBA championship, but after finishing in the top 10 in rebounding, blocks and steals last season, Wallace left Detroit when his relationship with coach Flip Saunders soured.

Skiles denied being concerned Wallace's benching may cause a rift on the team.

``That's kind of an inside team matter,'' he said. ``The guys may comment, they may not on it. I don't know, but I'm not going to. I am not concerned about (it). I don't know why.''

Like Wallace, Marbury's clashes with the coaching staff aren't unique to this season. Marbury had his share of problems last season with coach Larry Brown, but was considered a favorite of Isiah Thomas and vowed to be more active on offense, but that seems to be changing.

Marbury did not attempt a shot on Saturday and was kept on the bench nearly the entire second half, a day after he scored just two points on four shot attempts in a win at Boston.

Thomas' patience seems to be dwindling and on Monday, he left little doubt he'll be just as tough on Marbury as Brown was.

``If there was any doubt in any player's mind, I'm sure that's clear and been cleared up, and I'll make sure I keep reinforcing what I want,'' he said. ``And make no mistake about it, if I don't get exactly what I want, then there'll be consequences.''

Marbury is averaging a career-low 10.1 points this season, and has been held below that figure in five of the team's last six games.

Thomas tried to explain the situation, saying Marbury did not practice Saturday morning because he wasn't feeling well, and that's why he was benched.

Marbury seemed to dispel that idea on Saturday, but was vague on whether Thomas had talked to him about the benching.

``He didn't really have to explain, I wasn't getting the job done the other night,'' Marbury said. ``Now it's up to me to basically go on the basketball court and perform the way I'm capable of performing.''

Saturday was the second time this season Marbury has been benched. Thomas sat him 65 seconds into the third period of a 97-90 loss to the Houston Rockets last week.

The Knicks will be playing without Channing Frye, who sprained his left ankle on Saturday and is expected to miss three to six weeks. The injury depletes an already short-handed Knicks frontcourt. Forward Quentin Richardson is day-to-day after straining his left hamstring on Saturday, and Jared Jeffries is still out with a non-displaced fracture in his left wrist.

``Very concerned,'' Thomas said. ``We're already injured with Jeffries, and to have Richardson go down and to have Frye go down, it basically wiped out a good portion of our team. We'll find a way to fight, to scratch.''

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