PHILADELPHIA—On the Bulls' first two possessions of their ugly 123-108 loss to the 76ers on Friday night, Ben Wallace went one-on-one against Samuel Dalembert, leading to two wild misses.
Just over two minutes later, at the 8-minute-28-second mark, coach Scott Skiles removed Wallace. Wallace didn't re-enter until the 9:50 mark of the second quarter, a span of 10:38.
Wallace, who entered averaging 10.3 rebounds, also failed to grab a rebound for the first time since Feb. 17, 1999. That's a span of more than six full seasons and roughly 500 regular-season games.
After the carnage, which featured the most points allowed in Skiles' 242 games as Bulls coach, Skiles downplayed questions on the Bulls' $60 million man.
"I don't feel comfortable putting the emphasis on a guy that's played for us for 12 games, no matter who that guy is," Skiles said. "Let's put the focus on the guys who have been here that should be carrying the team. That's their responsibility. And that is to play the way we play and get the other guys to play that way."
Skiles said he took Wallace out because he wanted to try smaller lineups once the blowout began and he needed rebounding at that spot. Wallace has led the league in rebounding twice.
"I'm not trying to disavow him," Skiles said. "He's got to play better than he did [Friday]. I don't have any problems saying that either. That's obvious to anybody who watched the game. But the point is, I don't want that to become the focal point because all we end up doing is taking the onus off other people.
"That could be one of the reasons we're playing the way we are because everybody is standing around waiting for Big Ben Wallace to do something and protect them on every play. And the guys have to be accountable to their own position and the way they're guarding people."
Told that theory, Wallace shrugged.
"We're all in this together," he said. "We got our own defensive principles that we need to stick to. I think sometimes we get away from it. If the perimeter guys break down, we have to step up."
Wallace played a season-low 19:38. "He coaches," Wallace said. "I play."
Wallace said he had no explanation for zero rebounds.
"Everybody wants to play," Wallace said. "But until my number is called, all I can do is cheer for my teammates."
There wasn't much to cheer about. Allen Iverson tallied 46 points and 10 assists and Willie Green scored 20 points off the bench as Philadelphia topped the century mark with a whopping 9:25 remaining.
"We basically can't stop anybody right now," Kirk Hinrich said.
Luol Deng's 28 points led the Bulls, who trailed 13-1 and never led. Philadelphia, ranked 19th in scoring, snapped a four-game skid despite playing without Chris Webber and Steven Hunter.
"I'm seeing things out there that are just very, very bad basketball," Skiles said. "I'm not going to run from that. I'm the captain of the ship. And my team isn't playing well right now. We've got a lot of stuff to work on."