Daily Confidential

The Chicago Bulls' new center hasn't been as productive as expected, and is at odds with the team over its rule preventing headbands. The Bulls' former center is putting up career numbers for rebounds.

The two will meet Friday night when Ben Wallace and the Bulls (5-9) travel to Oklahoma City in New Orleans Hornets center Tyson Chandler's first game against his former team.

Chicago dealt Chandler to New Orleans (8-7) in the offseason for veteran forward P.J. Brown and swingman J.R. Smith, who was subsequently traded to Denver. Chandler signed a six-year contract worth about $60 million with the Bulls before last season and averaged 5.3 points and 9.0 rebounds in 2005-06 with Chicago.

The 7-foot-1 Chandler, who spent his first five seasons with the Bulls, became expendable when Chicago opted to sign Wallace, a four-time defensive player of the year with Detroit, to a four-year, $60 million contract.

Wallace is considered one of the NBA's most tenacious rebounders, and was also expected to bolster the defensive intensity of a team that finished last in field-goal percentage defense each of the last two seasons. The Bulls, however, are allowing opponents to shoot nearly 47 percent this season - one of the worst marks in the NBA.

Wallace is averaging just 9.4 rebounds, his lowest mark since the 1999-00 season. Chandler, meanwhile, is averaging a career-high 11.9 boards for the Hornets, who are holding opponents to 43.6 percent shooting, among the lowest in the league.

Making matters worse for Chicago has been a spat between Wallace and the Bulls regarding the team's ban on headbands. He deliberately wore one on two occasions during Saturday's victory at New York and didn't apologize for it afterward.

Wallace played his first game since the incident Tuesday and had eight points and 12 rebounds in a 102-85 win over New York.

``People are going to write and say what they want to say, but that doesn't affect what we do when we step out on the floor,'' Wallace said.

The Bulls have won two straight for the first time this season and are hoping to put aside the controversy and poor start.

``I think our team morale is still high,'' Chicago guard Chris Duhon said. ``We had a little disagreement and a little confrontation, but I don't think it distracted any of the players. We feel comfortable, we talked about it; it is over. We feel great as a team. I like the camaraderie and we have to keep playing well.''

The Hornets' losing streak reached four with a 94-77 rout against Toronto on Wednesday. They've averaged just 78.0 points during the slide after averaging 96.5 over their first 11 games.

New Orleans coach Byron Scott wasn't willing to use the absences of starters Peja Stojakovic (back) and David West (forearm) as an excuse for the loss.

``I think the fact that, again, another team has come in and outplayed and outworked us is more disappointing than the loss,'' Scott said. ``One thing that we did a lot of last year was show our resiliency. We aren't showing that right now. We are submitting and hoping that a team gives us a win.

``Or, we are feeling a little sorry for ourselves because we are missing two of our key players.''

Stojakovic and West could return Friday.

New Orleans and Chicago have split their season series each of the last two seasons.

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