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Bullfighting from within

November 10, 2001


Fallout from the Bulls' franchise-worst 53-point loss Thursday to the Minnesota Timberwolves continued Friday when the team fined 16-year veteran and team captain Charles Oakley $50,000 for criticizing coach Tim Floyd.

Sources said the Bulls also made calls about possibly trading the 37-year-old former all-star, who is in the last year of a contract paying him $7.2 million this season. One player said Oakley argued with Floyd and operations chief Jerry Krause before practice because he refused to apologize.

''Things were said, and I respect what they said,'' Oakley said. ''But they got to also respect what I said. It's a two-way street. They said I was wrong. But I'm not going to be like Scottie Pippen and every time I'm wrong come back and apologize. We got young guys here who are being thrown into the fire and don't understand what's going on. For us to win, the young guys got to know what's going on. We shouldn't have lost by 50-something points.

Oakley became the first Bulls player to be fined for criticizing his coach, Krause said.

''This is a very tough day in a lot of ways,'' said Krause, who first acquired Oakley in a draft-day trade in 1985. ''I was very unhappy last night. It probably was the worst game since I've been here. But comments made by Charles were totally inappropriate. Charles should have kept what he felt in the family. If Charles had a problem, he should have gone to Tim and expressed them in private.''

Oakley's postgame criticism of his coach came in response to Floyd's observation that the Bulls gave a ''pathetic effort'' in the 127-74 loss at Minnesota.

''If he challenged our effort, he has to challenge the way he does things,'' Oakley said. ''He got guys out there with different lineup changes every day. Every coach knows five-man substitutions don't work. I'm a veteran and don't want to tell the coach what to do, but sooner or later, somebody has to put a stop to it and wonder what's going on around here.''

Floyd said he will continue to make substitutions as he sees fit.

''I don't need any player's approval,'' Floyd said. ''Not Charles Oakley or anybody else. ... Guys that typically speak out usually are putting up big numbers. And I haven't seen those numbers from our guy.''

Oakley is averaging 4.9 points, a team-high 7.8 rebounds and 29 minutes per game.

Floyd also responded to Oakley's criticism of his decision to cancel the team's Thursday shootaround.

''We were going to practice, but we were two hours late getting to the plane because we had a veteran late getting to the plane,'' Floyd said. ''His name is Oakley.''

Asked if he was still team captain, Oakley said, ''I'm not sure. But they shouldn't ask me to be a leader if they don't want me to speak up. Ask me a question and I'll give you an answer. You may not like what I say, but I have my opinion.

''They're used to losing like this. They don't win but 15 games a year. It's just a different breed, I guess. A different breed of coaches and players. I guess I'm getting too old for the game.

''Maybe I need to go to the bench, move on--get traded or whatever. I didn't bring myself here. I was traded. I knew coming in that this was a tough situation. They also knew how many miles I had on me and that I speak my mind.''

Oakley isn't the only Bulls player questioning team management.

''A lot of what Oak said is right,'' said one player on the condition of anonymity. ''But it's stuff you don't say in public, unless you are Oak. I love him because he's such a hard worker and he takes up for the team. I wouldn't mind helping him pay the fine because he's taking some of the hit defending the team.

''We were pathetic and we have no excuse. But I guess management can rip players and players can't rip management. That's the good ol' American way.''

A spokesman for the NBA players union called Oakley's fine ''exorbitant'' and said it likely would be appealed.

Oakley said he is prepared for whatever happens next.

''I've been in bad situations--not like this, but I can survive,'' Oakley said. ''People who have [trouble surviving] are people who got 25 years to life [in prison] and can't get out. I only got seven more months here. I can survive that.''

The question now is whether he will get that opportunity.