Gar Forman

Bulls Will ‘Absolutely’ Retain Paxson, Forman

The Bulls have no plans to replace executive VP of basketball operations John Paxson or general manager Gar Forman in their front office anytime soon, team president and COO Michael Reinsdorf tells K.C. Johnson of The Chicago Tribune. Reinsdorf confirmed in no uncertain terms that Paxson and Forman would be back next season.

“Absolutely. We believe they’ve done a great job,” Reinsdorf said of the duo. “I know that in this market, with some of our fans and some in the media, they look at it differently. That perplexes me. Let’s talk about them individually because that’s another thing I don’t understand — why they’re referred to as ‘GarPax’ when they have different job responsibilities.

“… I said [previously] that if we ever felt we weren’t headed in the right direction that we’d be open to change. But we’re nowhere near that. John’s ability to build rosters is proven. We have the utmost confidence in him.”

Reinsdorf took exception to the idea that the Bulls have gone through a handful of rebuilds under Paxson and Forman, arguing that this is just the club’s second rebuild, and stating that he believes it’s very much on the right track. Pointing to promising young players like Zach LaVine, Lauri Markkanen, and Wendell Carter, Reinsdorf likened the Bulls to the Kings and expressed optimism that Chicago can take a similar step forward next season.

The Bulls’ president and COO also offered a defense of Forman’s draft record, praising the GM for selecting players like Jimmy Butler, Nikola Mirotic, Taj Gibson, and Bobby Portis outside of the lottery over the years. The selection of Markkanen at No. 7 in 2017 earned high praise from Reinsdorf as well.

“If we look at Lauri Markkanen, if you did the 2017 draft over again, Lauri in theory could be the No. 1 pick in the draft,” Reinsdorf said. “You might say Jayson Tatum or Donovan Mitchell. But Lauri could be the No. 1 pick. That’s how good that pick was at No. 7.”

While Paxson, Forman, and head coach Jim Boylen have all received plenty of criticism from segments of the Bulls’ fanbase over the course of the 2018/19 season, it sounds like all three will be back to start the 2019/20 campaign. In addition to praising the club’s management team, Reinsdorf echoed Paxson’s earlier comments on Boylen returning for next season, lauding the work he has done with Markkanen and LaVine.

“Nothing has changed from what John has said,” Reinsdorf said. “I’m very happy with the job that Jim has done. Everything he has said he was going to do, he has done.”

Bulls Considering Leadership Committee

The Bulls discussed forming a leadership committee after this weekend’s incidents involving new coach Jim Boylen, according to Malika Andrews and Ramona Shelburne of ESPN. If it happens, committee members will help to foster communication and mitigate disputes that arise between players and coaches.

Bulls players reacted angrily after Boylen, who took over for Fred Hoiberg last week, scheduled a Sunday practice in the midst of a three-game stretch in four nights. Boylen has been holding strenuous practice sessions since becoming head coach, and players objected to the additional wear and tear in the midst of a difficult part of the schedule.

Some players discussed boycotting Sunday’s session, but Lauri Markkanen and Robin Lopez helped to quell that rebellion. All the players showed up, but there was no practice, just two meetings — one involving just players and another between players and coaches with team president John Paxson and GM Gar Forman present.

Boylen reportedly has the full support of management in his get-tough approach with the team. However, he explained in the second meeting that he wasn’t intending to hold a hard practice on Sunday and stressed to players that they need to learn to trust him.

Zach LaVine told the ESPN writers he met one-on-one with Boylen and tried to explain his perspective.

“You just want to be real with people,” LaVine said. “There shouldn’t be any clouds. I think of myself as one of the leaders on the team. I just wanted to voice my opinion to them. This is a business, this isn’t a dictatorship. We are all grown men, so everybody has a voice.”

Bulls Notes: Record Loss, Hoiberg, Dunn, Arcidiacono

New Bulls coach Jim Boylen didn’t hold back his criticism after Saturday’s 56-point loss to the Celtics, the worst defeat in franchise history, relays Malika Andrews of ESPN.

“I think your play is embarrassing,” said Boylen, who pulled his five starters for the night three minutes into the third quarter. “… I worked for [Spurs head coach] Gregg Popovich. He subbed five guys a ton of times. Nobody says a word to him about it. He felt that was best for the team. I felt that was best for the team where we were at. I wanted to give the other guys a chance to see if they could right the ship a little bit. If I don’t like the five guys out there, if I don’t like the combination, I’m going to look at a new combination. Take them all out, let them sit there and think about it.”

There was plenty to think about, and none of it was good. Chicago fell behind 17-0 and went more than six minutes of the first quarter without scoring. The deficit was 32 points when Boylen decided to pull Ryan Arcidiacono, Zach LaVine, Justin Holiday, Lauri Markkanen and Wendell Carter, who combined for 27 points on the night, the lowest total for a Bulls starting lineup in 11 years. Fans booed loudly throughout the game as the team fell to 6-21.

“We don’t have that internal toughness yet to play at this level consistently,” Boylen said afterward.

There’s more this morning from Chicago:

  • Bulls management claims that former coach Fred Hoiberg was dismissed because he lost his influence with his players, but the real reason was a deteriorating relationship with GM Gar Forman, according to Joe Cowley of The Chicago Sun-Times. Bobby Portis was the latest player to come to Hoiberg’s defense Saturday. “He’s a players’ coach, lets guys go out there and do what they do, get better,” Portis said. “Me, personally, he helped me develop my game a lot, so I credit a lot of things toward him. To say that he lost the respect of the locker room, I don’t think that’s a good way to put it.’’
  • Portis and Kris Dunn are both close to returning from knee injuries, although neither played Saturday. Dunn’s return will mark a critical time in his career, as he becomes eligible for a rookie contract extension at the end of the season, Cowley notes in a separate story. Dunn has been effective since coming to Chicago last year, but it’s not clear if the front office is fully invested in him as the point guard of the future. Cowley states that the team had a private workout with Trae Young before the draft and considered taking Collin Sexton with the seventh pick before opting for Carter.
  • Arcidiacono’s high-energy game has made him an effective fill-in during Dunn’s absence, writes Sam Smith of NBA.com.

Paxson: Bulls GM Gar Forman Is ‘Absolutely Safe’

While the Bulls fired head coach Fred Hoiberg today, they don’t expect to part ways with general manager Gar Forman anytime soon, according to executive VP of basketball operations John Paxson.

As K.C. Johnson of The Chicago Tribune relays, Paxson issued a strong defense of Forman today, telling reporters that the GM is “absolutely safe” in his current role, a stance that sources confirmed privately to Johnson. Paxson also dismissed the idea that Hoiberg’s initial hiring was all on Forman.

“First of all, the belief that Gar solely made that decision was wrong and always has been,” Paxson said. “Those are reports. We can’t battle everything. I was 100% on board with hiring Fred. Jerry (Reinsdorf) and Michael (Reinsdorf) were 100% on board with hiring Fred. I work with Gar every day. I understand his internal value to this organization.”

Paxson technically sits above Forman in Chicago’s basketball operations hierarchy, but the general manager has a significant voice in roster moves and coaching hires, with Paxson indicating today that the two executives work in tandem and “make decisions together.” Those coaching and personnel decisions have been hit-and-miss for the Bulls in recent years, and Forman has also faced criticism for not speaking more to reporters, which Paxson addressed this afternoon with Forman unavailable for comment.

“I’m the person who will stand up in front and talk about why we do certain things. That’s just the way it is,” Paxson said. “It’s not that he’s not talking because he doesn’t want to. It’s because I choose to speak for this organization. And I feel passionately about his role with us.

“We’ve made some great decisions in terms of young personnel the last couple years,” Paxson continued. “And as we have the opportunity to make more decisions, he’ll be front and center. We’ll work in tandem and we hope to do the right thing.”

Bulls Notes: Valentine, Hoiberg, Parker, Mirotic

Denzel Valentine has yet to appear in a game this season for the Bulls, and his 2018/19 debut isn’t imminent. As The Chicago Sun-Times relays (via Twitter), executive VP of basketball operations John Paxson indicated on Wednesday that Valentine’s left ankle isn’t responding well, prompting the team to pump the brakes on his rehab and rule him out indefinitely.

With Valentine still on the shelf, the team figures to continue relying on rookie Chandler Hutchison in a regular rotation role. Chicago also appears to qualify for the hardship provision, which allows an injury-ravaged team to add a 16th man to its 15-man roster when it’s missing at least four players. Valentine, Kris Dunn, Bobby Portis, and Lauri Markkanen are all in the midst of extended absences for the Bulls, but there has been no word on the team applying for or receiving that roster exception.

Here’s more from out of Chicago:

  • It looks like there’s a real possibility that the 2018/19 season could be Fred Hoiberg‘s last with the Bulls, says Joe Cowley of The Chicago Sun-Times. If that happens, GM Gar Forman should follow Hoiberg out the door, Cowley argues.
  • Hoiberg had a heated discussion with Jabari Parker during Wednesday’s loss, according to Cowley, who notes that Parker jogged down the floor on back-to-back defensive possessions before Hoiberg called timeout and had words with him.
  • Bulls center Wendell Carter, a former Duke Blue Devil, raved about his alma mater’s 2018/19 roster, suggesting that he believes Zion Williamson will “translate perfectly” to the NBA, as Cowley details. However, Carter doesn’t want to see the Bulls go into tank mode to try to land one of those top Duke prospects in next year’s draft. “I feel like we’ve just got to try to win every game,” he said. “If we lose, but we’re playing hard, that’s one thing, but I wouldn’t feel good losing games on purpose.”
  • In yet another article for The Sun-Times, Cowley revisits Nikola Mirotic‘s time in Chicago, suggesting that the front office “couldn’t wait to deal him” and some of his teammates “weren’t exactly sad” that Bobby Portis punched him during a practice last fall. Hoiberg and Robin Lopez spoke highly of Mirotic, however.
  • Sam Smith of Bulls.com explores where things stand for two-way player Tyler Ulis, who finds himself on the Windy City Bulls after spending the last two seasons as an NBA rotation player.

Extension Roundup: Rozier, Portis, Jones, Russell

 Celtics point guard Terry Rozier turned down a rookie scale extension offer prior to Monday’s deadline and will become a restricted free agent next summer, A. Sherrod Blakely of NBC Sports Boston reports. Boston offered Rozier approximately $12MM annually, according to Blakely, but chose to take his chances in free agency. Talks were cordial and the two parties will revisit each other when Rozier hits the market, Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN tweets.
“I’m in a great situation,” Rozier told Blakely. “My team (representatives) felt it wasn’t good for me to sign an extension right now. It opens my options a little bit, but I’m focused on what’s happening right now.”
Rozier is expected to have multiple suitors even as a restricted free agent, since Kyrie Irving recently announced that he plans to re-sign with the Celtics next summer, Blakely notes. Rozier broke out last season, particularly after Irving went down with a knee injury. He was especially potent in the playoffs, averaging 16.5 PPG, 5.3 RPG and 5.7 APG.
We have more extension decisions:
  • The Timberwolves and point guard Tyus Jones did not reach a rookie scale extension agreement. Jones will be a restricted free agent, and that’s been the expectation all along, Jon Krawczynski of The Athletic tweets. Minnesota would have to make a $3,573,205 qualifying offer before free agency next summer, otherwise Jones would be unrestricted. Jones saw action in all 82 regular-season games last season, including 11 starts, and averaged 5.1 PPG and 2.8 APG in 17.9 MPG.
  • The Bulls and forward Bobby Portis couldn’t come to an extension agreement before Monday’s deadline, Wojnarowski tweets. Agent Mark Bartelstein and Chicago GM Gar Forman had lengthy negotiations as the deadline approached, K.C. Johnson of the Chicago Tribune tweets, but couldn’t close the financial gap. “We had very positive talks,” Bartelstein told Johnson. “These are hard extensions to get done.” (Twitter link). Portis will be a restricted free agent if Chicago gives him a $3,611,813 qualifying offer. He averaged 13.2 PPG and 6.8 RPG in 73 regular season games after returning from his eight-game team suspension following his well-publicized dust-up with former teammate Nikola Mirotic.
  • Nets guard D’Angelo Russell and forward Rondae Hollis-Jefferson did not receive extensions, Michael Scotto of The Athetic tweets. Neither player was aware of Monday’s deadline, according to Scotto, suggesting that the Nets never made a serious pitch to lock them up before free agency. The Nets would have extend a $9,160,706 qualifying offer to Russell to make him a restricted free agent. Hollis-Jefferson’s qualifying offer would be $3,594,369.

Central Notes: Forman, Ellenson, Evans, Kanter

Bulls GM Gar Forman has done a good job of acquiring young talent but the hard part is yet to come, as Joe Cowley of the Chicago Sun-Times explains. Chicago will need to use its cap room and land at least one star player to become a major threat in the Eastern Conference, Cowley continues. Forman’s reputation around the league is shaky and he’s never been able to land such a player in his current position. That could eventually wreck this rebuilding project, Cowley concludes.

We have more from around the Central Division:

  • Pistons power forward Henry Ellenson is entering a pivotal year in his career, Ansar Khan of MLive.com notes. Ellenson is expected to his minutes increase under new coach Dwane Casey and Ellenson has been working diligently to become a stronger defender and improve his ball-handling. However, the third-year big man out of Marquette struggled with his new shooting motion during summer league games, particularly from long range, and that’s disconcerting, Khan adds.
  • Free agent additions Doug McDermott and Tyreke Evans, along with first-round pick Aaron Holiday, should facilitate the Pacers’ desire to increase their 3-point production, according to Greg Rappaport of Pacers.com. McDermott closed out last season in Dallas by making nearly 50% of his long-range attempts in the final 24 games, while Holiday posted solid 3-point percentages during his college career, Rappaport continues. Evans has improved his long-range shooting over the last three seasons and will be an upgrade over Lance Stephenson, Rappaport adds.
  • Knicks center Enes Kanter took a shot at the Bucks franchise and said he never considered joining them this summer, Royce Young of ESPN reports. Kanter posted a deer emoji on his Twitter account, then deleted it minutes later, the night before he decided to opt in and stay in New York. But Milwaukee was never on his radar. “I know I was not going to go to the Milwaukee Bucks. It’s the Milwaukee Bucks,” he told Young. “Unless they give you good, good money, then go, but you don’t leave New York for Milwaukee.”

Central Rumors: Frye, Parker, Sexton, Garnett

Channing Frye‘s impact on the locker room had a lot to do with the Cavaliers’ decision to bring back the veteran forward, according to Terry Pluto of the Cleveland Plain Dealer. GM Koby Altman wanted a respected veteran voice to guide the team through tough times with the departure of LeBron James, Pluto continues. Frye is very popular with his teammates and shares a close bond with the team’s remaining star, Kevin Love. Frye was traded to the Lakers last February by Cleveland solely to make the deal work financially and not because the front office had any issues with him, Pluto adds. Frye agreed to a one-year, veteran’s minimum deal.

We have more from around the Central Division:

  • The team option on Jabari Parker‘s two-year contract gives the Bulls flexibility during free agency next summer, Kevin Anderson of NBC Sports Chicago notes. With a projected rise in the salary cap, the Bulls could free up enough cap space to sign a top-level free agent even if they decide to keep Parker. That could be accomplished by allowing Bobby Portis and Cameron Payne to become unrestricted free agents if they are not signed to extensions. If they decide to let Parker go next summer, they could have between $35MM-$53MM in cap space during free agency, Anderson adds.
  • Cavaliers lottery pick Collin Sexton was a volume scorer during summer-league competition but reinforced the notion that his long-range game needs work, as Andre Snellings of ESPN details. Sexton did most of his damage inside the arc and needs to develop a consistent 3-point shot, Snellings continues. The University of Alabama product also displayed his ability to create for his teammates but he still can become a better passer, Snellings adds.
  • The Pistons made arrangements to have Kevin Garnett work with two of their bigs, center Andre Drummond and power forward Henry Ellenson, Marc Stein of the New York Times tweets.
  • GM Gar Forman’s promise two years ago to make the Bulls younger and more athletic is coming to fruition, Michael Walton of NBC Sports Chicago writes. By drafting Lauri Markkanen and Wendell Carter Jr. in the lottery, trading for Zach LaVine and Kris Dunn and signing Jabari Parker as a free agent, the average age of the projected lineup is 22, Walton points out. The team can now play at a quicker pace and cover more space defensively, Walton adds.

Bulls Notes: Lineup Changes, Payne, Forman

With 25 games left in their season, the Bulls are focusing on the future, as VP John Paxson explained to reporters on Tuesday (link via Sam Smith of Bulls.com). That means that Cristiano Felicio will move into the starting lineup on Thursday in place of veteran center Robin Lopez, while David Nwaba will supplant Justin Holiday.

“The hard part from our standpoint is you can’t play 12 guys. Nine or 10 is the most,” Paxson said. “We’re going to start looking at blocks of games where we’ll be having a few guys who haven’t been playing much or at all have a significant role. The whole goal in our position is to evaluate what we have on this roster.

“The hard thing when you do things like this is you’re asking certain people to sacrifice roles and minutes,” Paxson continued. “It’s veteran guys. That’s never an easy thing. As I told them, I, along with [GM] Gar [Forman], we’re entrusted with the future of the organization. So these last 25 games, we’re going to evaluate what we have on this roster by playing more the guys we haven’t seen much this year.”

Let’s round up a few more Bulls notes…

  • Cameron Payne, who has missed the entire season with a foot injury, is set to make his 2017/18 debut on Thursday, writes Madeline Kenney of The Chicago Sun-Times. Payne figures to cut into Jerian Grant‘s playing time.
  • With John Paxson once again addressing reporters on Tuesday, Joe Cowley of The Chicago Sun-Times explores where Gar Forman has been “hiding” this season. According to Cowley, Paxson comes across as more “honest and transparent” than Forman, which is why the VP has handled most of the team’s media responsibilities this season. However, Forman is still very much involved in basketball operations and is by no means being pushed out of the organization.
  • Justin Holiday is trying to take his reduced role in stride, per K.C. Johnson of The Chicago Tribune. “I have to deal with it, be professional about it,” Holiday said. “Regardless of the situation or the reason, I have to carry myself a certain way because that’s how I do things. How I react and carry myself in this will be a good leadership situation for the young guys to see and follow the example if it does happen to them.”
  • The $600K fine Mark Cuban received for publicly discussing the benefits of losing is exactly why Paxson and other members of the Bulls organization will dance around the subject of tanking, says Mark Strotman of NBC Sports Chicago.

Bulls Owner Talks Front Office, Team, Rebuild

The Bulls hierarchy hasn’t always been clear with VP of Basketball Operations John Paxson and GM Gar Forman each taking on various responsibilities during their respective tenures. However, despite the unconventional approach, owner Jerry Reinsdorf is confident that the franchise has the right management in place.

“I picked Paxson to rebuild when [Jerry] Krause left [in 2003] because he’s a leader. Nothing has changed,” Reinsdorf tells K.C. Johnson of the Chicago Tribune. “He’s a fine evaluator of talent. He’s a long-term thinker. He works well with the general manager. He works well with coaches. I’m a John Paxson fan.”

Paxson has traveled with the team all season in an attempt to create transparency and accountability while offering support to players and coaches. Forman has spent much of his time on the road, scouting prospects in search of future talent and taking on other traditional front office responsibilities.

“Forman is great with agents,” Reinsdorf said. “John hates to deal with agents. Gar is good at negotiating with the other general managers, but John was good at that too. Gar is great at cap knowledge and planning ahead. He’s an extremely detailed guy. That’s why we have the two jobs. And that’s a trend that teams are moving too. They realize you need two different skill sets.”

Forman served as the face of the front office during the Derrick Rose era, giving up that unofficial title to Paxson as the team went into a rebuild. Reinsdorf believes Forman has consistently done a great job, though Paxson is more of a media darling than the GM is.

“I think John plays well publicly, more than me or Gar,” the owner said. “People tend to like John. They trust him. He’s the guy next door. People look at Gar and me and we’re not warm and cuddly like John.”

Reinsdorf, who also owns the Chicago White Sox, will turn 82 years old in February and that begs the question: Why sign off on another rebuild?

“I figure I have at the most 15-20 years left and I’d like to win again,” Reinsdorf said. “I don’t like being caught in the middle.

“I think the rebuild is going great. We don’t want to be fooled by winning six games in a row. But we’re seeing our young players step up. We’re seeing [Nikola Mirotic] show what we thought we had in the first place. [Kris Dunn] is coming on. [Bobby Portis] is having a good year. And [Zach LaVine] hasn’t even played yet.

“I think Gar and John have put together the core of something good. Now it remains to be seen [if we] can take the next two steps, mediocrity and being good, without being stuck too long in mediocrity.”