By John DentonOct. 31, 2015
CHICAGO – With the Orlando Magic in the Windy City and somewhat staggered by crushing losses in the first two games, the team could likely draw a bit of strength and inspiration from a highlight in Scott Skiles’ past when he coached the Chicago Bulls.
In 2004-05, when Skiles was in his first full season after taking over the Bulls a month into the previous season, Chicago opened with a depressing 0-9 start. Skiles ultimately made a couple of lineup changes, moving Ben Gordon into a sixth man role, and the no-nonsense coach stuck to his message about doing all the little things right and eventually they will add up to big success.
That message turned out to be right on the mark as that Chicago team – one that included current Magic assistant coach Adrian Griffin – made its 0-9 start a thing of the past by posting a 47-35 record that was third-best in the East. Also, those Bulls made the playoffs for the first time since legendary guard Michael Jordan left the franchise in 1998.
Skiles, who is in his 14th year of coaching following successful stops with Phoenix, Chicago and Milwaukee, was hired in late May be the Magic to instill some toughness and structure to Orlando’s youthful roster. His work helped the Magic show signs of growth in the preseason when they posted a 6-2 record, but two frustrating losses followed to Washington and Oklahoma City to start the regular season. In both games, Orlando had late leads only to come unglued against two teams that were in the playoffs last season and possess superstar players in John Wall, Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook.
The Magic (0-2) play the Bulls (1-1) Sunday night at 7 p.m. ET and Skiles is eager to see how this Orlando team responds to adversity. If they handle it like his ’04-05 Bulls team, the season should be a memorable one.
``There are some similarities (between that Bulls team and this Magic team), but there are some big differences, too,’’ said Skiles, whose move of Gordon to the bench in 2004-05 proved to be the key switch as the guard won the league’s Sixth Man of the Year award. ``There is a point where there is only so much (losing) that you can take. We need a catalyst.’’
Skiles said his experience has taught him that he has to remain firm with his message even though Orlando stumbled twice coming out of the gate. Also, Skiles said he is trying to prepare the Magic for the big picture and not just the short term. Ultimately, he said, the Magic should possess the kind of toughness that would allow them to win big-time in the playoffs and not just be satisfied with regular-season victories.
``We’re trying to convince the guys that if we focus on what we’re supposed to do and not the outcome, the outcome will take care of itself and we’ll have wins to show for our work,’’ Skiles said. ``We’re trying to get our guys ready to compete in a Game 5 with the (playoff) series tied 2-2. We’re a ways away from that right now, but that’s the goal – to get them in that mentality and realize how hard it is to just win a game in the playoffs even when you do everything right.’’