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Scott Skiles: Fireball for Rent

Scott Skiles is the latest edition of the Bullets Forever Summer Project. Some classics have been covered so far (Robert Pack, Tim Legler, Ledell Eackles, Jim McIlvaine, and Haywoode Workman) - [oh yea, and Larry Stewart], but there are plenty of great names left. I know many of you out there have some good, and not so good, memories about curiosities of Bullets past. I suggest you take a look at the list, see what demon you want to exercise, and blog it out.


Scott Skiles is just another chapter in a Bullets franchise book entitled "The History of Stop-Gap Point Guard Solutions."

Heading into the 1994-1995 season, it'd been decided that Michael Adams, the previous season's starter at the point, would not work in accordance with the half court offensive ideals of new coach, Jim Lynam. After trading Adams to the Charlotte Hornets for a couple 2nd round picks, GM John Nash had his sights on signing Brian Shaw to lead the team. However, with Skiles being put on the market by the Orlando Magic, he'd surrendered his starting role to Anfernee Hardaway, Nash opted for the sure thing rather than the undependable free-agent courting process.

The acquisition of Skiles was a shrewd and intelligent option. For one, Orlando was desperate to rid themselves of Skiles and the one-year, $2.1 million left on his contract so that they could sign Horace Grant away from the Chicago Bulls. They practically gave him away sending Skiles and a 1st round draft pick (top three protected) to the Bullets for a 2nd rounder. Months later, the Bullets would send that pick, which turned out to be the 11th overall, to the Golden State Warriors in the Chris Webber deal; the Warriors used it to select Todd Fuller out of NC State.

In hindsight, the fact that Skiles would probably only be around for a year, known by all interested parties from the get-go, wasn't the best idea. The situation simply wasn't conducive to the team distributor being able to develop a rapport with young teammates. However, in all fairness, one could not predict the Tom Gugliotta for Chris Webber trade six games into the season, drastically altering the team dynamic, and making an up-tempo offense more desirable.

Battling injuries, the '94-95 Bullets simply could not mesh. On the court, Skiles battled inconsistency and the inability to defend quicker NBA point guards at the age of 30. Off the court, Skiles was faced with an ugly custody battle over his two sons. He was forced to miss practices because of travel to Indiana to deal with legal issues.

Skiles was a gutsy S.O.B. as his reputation dictated, but spats with Lynam over a variety of issues were counter productive to a true team environment. Skiles was also not used to the frugality of franchise management, once saying, "Things seem to go wrong here. Someone like me is not used to that. I'm used to being in a place where everything was done right the first time. It has taken some getting used to." If there was a bright side to the whole situation, it was the hope that the Wizards youth would learn from Skiles' hustle and late-game moxie.

Skiles appeared in the first 62 games (only 17 of them wins) for the Wizards before succumbing to torn ligaments in his wrist and season ending surgery. He averaged 13 points, 7.3 assists, 2.8 turnovers, 1.1 steals, and 2.6 boards in 33.5 minutes of action, starting every game in which he played. He shot 45.% from the field, 42.1% from deep and 88.6% from the charity stripe (6th in the NBA). He led the team in True Shooting Percentage (59.9%), Win Shares (4.5), Offensive Win Shares (3.8), and Offensive Rating (115).

The following year, Skiles signed with the Philadelphia 76ers, but only appeared in 10 games before announcing his retirement in early January of '96. Once quoted as saying that he wouldn't play for the money, Skiles was also anxious to begin a career in coaching, for which he was known to have aspirations.

Considering what the Bullets gave up, the Scott Skiles experiment wasn't the worst idea in the world. The outcome, however, has become part of the unfortunate lore of the team we know and love. Stop-gaps, quick fixes, and the like may satisfy whimsical fan desires in the short run, but in the long run, that route is not the path to consistent success. Hey, I'm just glad franchise building, and rebuilding, isn't my job.


Sources Used:

  • "Skiles Brings Promise, Few Promises to Bullets," Washington Post (Aug. 3, 1994) Rachel Alexander.
  • "Skiles Weighs Options As Season's End Nears; Guard May Coach, Play Someplace Else," Washington Post (Mar. 8, 1995) Richard Justice.
  • "Skiles' Season, Bullets Career Come to an End; Guard to Have Wrist Surgery," Washington Post (Apr. 12, 1995) Richard Justice.