The Bulls entered Saturday’s game against the Bucks with a 5-6 record and had lost their last three games. The Bucks currently lead the Eastern Conference Central Division with a 6-4 record and are followed by the Bulls and the Indiana Pacers, who are 6-8. The Bulls and Pacers were thought to be the preseason division favorites.
“Obviously (Danny) Granger being out in Indiana, that’s had an effect on them,” said Skiles, who coached the Bulls from 2003-08. “I believe they’re better even without Granger than their record indicates, and I think the Bulls are, too.
“I’ve been around some of those (Bulls) guys. I just think they’re good players. Kirk (Hinrich) is a good player. Lu (Luol Deng) is a good player. Jo (Joakim Noah) is a good player. (Carlos) Boozer is a good player. I don’t mean to be leaving anybody out. Their bench is different. I think at some point they’ll get that worked out, get it ironed out and just kind of hit a stride at some point.”
The Bulls have owned the Central the past two seasons. The Bulls took the division by eight games over the Pacers and 19 games over the Bucks last season. Two seasons ago, the Bulls won the division by 25 games over the Pacers and 27 games over the Bucks.
Although this season appears to be headed in a different direction, Skiles wasn’t willing to declare that just yet.
“We’ll see,” Skiles said. “It’s still early.”
Skiles did admit he did like his team’s start.
“You’d rather be 6-4 than 4-6, but also know we’ve had a couple games in there we should have won, as well,” Skiles said.
Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau said he didn’t buy into divisions ever being the same as the previous season.
“Each year it’s different, and that’s what you’re faced with,” Thibodeau said. “We’re not the only team with change. Every team changes and it’s how you adapt to those changes, and how quickly you can adapt. There’s been a lot of teams in the East that have gotten significantly stronger, so the challenge is greater.”