John Paxson

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 Notes: Paxson, Lopez, Holiday, Allen, Dunn

The Bulls were relatively quiet as the trade deadline passed on Thursday, completing a pair of minor deals involving Noah Vonleh and Jameer Nelson. Chicago’s major move came when the team dealt Nikola Mirotic to the Pelicans, which netted the team highly-coveted draft picks.

Vice president of basketball operations John Paxson, is happy with the Bulls’ moves and is excited about the future, Joe Cowley of The Chicago Sun-Times writes. Paxson compared draft picks to gold for teams as his franchise restocks for the future. In particular, Paxson likes having future high picks to go along with the young talent already on the roster.

“We look at it this way: We got the three young guys [Lauri Markkanen, Zach LaVine and Kris Dunn] when we made the [Jimmy Butler] trade for last year, we’re going to have two [first-round] picks most likely in this draft, and we’ve got Bobby [Portis] and Denzel [Valentine] as young guys,” Paxson said. “That’s seven young pieces, and we just need to continue to develop them, grow, and make the smart decisions, not get in a rush.’’

Check out other Bulls news and notes below:

  • Paxson said that the Bulls were offered several multiyear bad contracts in trade talks, but the team was not comfortable taking on significant money that went beyond the 2018/19 season, K.C. Johnson of the Chicago Tribune tweets. Paxson added that the Bulls were comfortable taking Omer Asik in the Mirotic trade because he is set to make just $3MM in 2018/19.
  • While the Bulls could have traded Robin Lopez and/or Justin Holiday, Paxson said their value as veteran leaders and teammates was too important to the club, Johnson tweets.
  • Tony Allen, who was acquired as part of the Mirotic trade, was reportedly set to be waived by Chicago. However, Paxson said the team will have a discussion with Allen’s agent before deciding on his future, Nick Friedell of ESPN tweets.
  • Point guard Kris Dunn is out of concussion protocol but he is still not ready to return, per the Associated Press. Dunn has missed the Bulls’ past eight games; he’s averaging 13.7 PPG and 6.4 APG for Chicago this season.

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.”

Central Notes: Collison, Cavaliers, Thompson

The Pacers have jumped out of the gates with one of the league’s fastest-paced and most potent offenses. Much of that is thanks to their newly acquired point guard, Darren CollisonJim Ayello of the Indianapolis Star writes. The guard has taken a substantial leap forward since his last tenure with the franchise.

I’m a much better player than I was in the past,” the Pacers guard said. “I know the game a little better. I’m more mature. I don’t think I’ve lost a step, but I’m not as fast as I used to be. But my basketball IQ is at higher level than it ever has been.

In five games with the Pacers so far this season, Collison has averaged 15.6 points and 8.4 assists per game. Indiana, as a team, has averaged 114.0 points per game, the fourth-highest total in the NBA.

There’s more from the Central Division:

  • The Cavaliers are not in the mix to acquire Eric Bledsoe at this point in time, Joe Vardon of Cleveland.com writes in a question-and-answer with readers. There are no Bledsoe trade scenarios that make sense for the squad so long as Isaiah Thomas returns healthy and Derrick Rose is accountable all season.
  • In his latest comments about the Nikola MiroticBobby Portis kerfuffle, Bulls executive vice president John Paxson reiterated that they’re feeling out the best way of handling the scenario but noted that they’ll do what’s in the organization’s best interest. As K.C. Johnson of the Chicago Tribune writes, that’s a reminder that both players technically remain under contract, giving the franchise final say in what happens.
  • The Cavaliers will start Tristan Thompson for the next little while, Joe Vardon of Cleveland.com tweets. Head coach Tyronn Lue opted to slot the familiar face in at the five, bumping Jae Crowder out of his role as the starting small forward.

Bulls Notes: Front Office, Wade, Mirotic, Portis

In an in-depth and well-researched piece for ESPN, Nick Friedell examines how the Bulls went from a title contender to one of the NBA’s worst teams within the last several years. Friedell’s report, which begins by revisiting Derrick Rose‘s first major injury back in 2012, provides plenty of interesting tidbits along the way, touching on the tension between Tom Thibodeau and the front office, Jimmy Butler and Joakim Noah, Dwyane Wade and his young teammates, and Bobby Portis and Nikola Mirotic.

As Friedell details, there has no been no shortage of issues in Chicago in recent years, with even the most successful seasons during that stretch including a few sour notes. For instance, sources tell Friedell that executives John Paxson and Gar Forman felt like they didn’t get enough credit for the roster they built during the Thibodeau years.

Friedell’s whole piece is worth a read, but here are a couple more details from it, along with more Bulls notes:

  • When the Bulls landed Wade last summer, Forman conveyed the impression that the front office had been planning its pursuit of Wade for weeks. In reality though, according to Friedell, the Bulls were “shocked” that they had an opportunity to pry Wade away from the Heat, and altered their rebuilding plans when it became clear they could sign him.
  • Via Freidell, here’s what Paxson had to say about the perception that the Bulls could have done better than the Timberwolves’ package in a Butler trade: “Teams would call us all the time and probe about Jimmy and that type of thing. But no one ever made us any type of legitimate offer. In fact, most teams, when they would make an offer, it was somewhat insulting. So we always listened, which teams do, but it really came down to, could we start to rebuild with some quality young players? And hope that knowing what our future holds, it’s going to be painful at times. But if we get into these next few drafts at a fairly significant level, the hope is that pairing what draft picks we have going forward and the players that we got in this deal, we can get back sooner rather than later.”
  • In a separate article for ESPN, Friedell notes that the fight between Portis and Mirotic denied the Bulls the opportunity to push an optimistic and hopeful narrative about the team’s rebuild to open the season.
  • Although Portis privately and publicly apologized for punching Mirotic, there are growing concerns that the relationship between the two players may be much more difficult to repair, as Joe Cowley of The Chicago Sun-Times writes. Mirotic hasn’t returned any of Portis’ calls or texts, says Cowley.

Bulls Notes: Pondexter, Portis, Dunn

After a tumultuous two years on the sidelines, Bulls forward Quincy Pondexter made an emotional return to the court in Chicago’s season opener, Vincent Goodwill of NBC Sports Chicago writes. The 29-year-old missed the last two seasons recovering from a knee injury, as well as a life-threatening MRSA infection.

Just last January one of Pondexter’s knee surgeries went south, resulting in the guard nearly dying in a New York hospital due to the antibiotic-resistant infection. “It wasn’t looking good,” Pondexter said. “It was tough. Being able to play basketball again in less than a year is crazy. This journey has been amazing.

Pondexter scored eight points in his return but despite a prolific three-point shot, the veteran’s biggest contribution to the young Bulls will likely be his leadership. Pondexter has served as a valued role player for the Pelicans and the Grizzlies and will look to continue where he left off in 2014/15.

There’s more from Chicago:

  • Head coach Fred Hoiberg told Nick Friedell of ESPN that Bobby Portis apologized to his teammates in a recent team meeting.
  • There are too many variables at play for Bulls President of Basketball Operations John Paxson to put a timeline on the team’s rebuild, Cody Westerlund of 670 The Score tweets.
  • If the Bulls were hoping for a quiet 2017/18 season to develop young players and establish a new culture, that vanished the moment Bobby Portis punched Nikola Mirotic, Vincent Goodwill of NBC Sports Chicago writes. Now the club in transition will be viewed under a microscope.
  • Second-year guard Kris Dunn could make his season debut as early as next week, NBA writer Sean Highkin tweets. Dunn had been expected to be sidelined 2-to-4 weeks as recently as last week.

Central Notes: Pacers, Bell, Bulls

The Pacers have made a concerted effort to play a faster tempo and managed to do just that thanks to their new-look backcourt spearheaded by Victor Oladipo. As Clifton Brown of the Indianapolis Star writes, Indiana managed to up their pace eventually outrunning their opening day opponent altogether.

While Oladipo led the squad in scoring with 22 points in Indiana’s first game, he wasn’t the only guard to post an impressive stat line. Veteran Darren Collison added 21 and 11 of his own while reserve guard Cory Joseph – plucked from the Raptors this offseason – put in 11 points and 4 assists of his own for the victorious Pacers.

[Pacers coach] Nate MacMillan’s done an unbelievable job of letting us take the onus as point guards and kind of let us run the show,” Collison said. “He was a point guard himself. He knows what it’s like to let us see the game, instead of micromanaging every single play. If we can play like that, call a guard game, play with one another, we’ll be alright.

There’s more from the Central Division:

  • The Bulls have gotten flak for, among other things, selling second-round pick Jordan Bell to the Warriors. Cody Westerlund of 670 The Score tweets that VP of basketball operations John Paxson said that he was “building up equity” with ownership when he sold the No. 38 pick to Golden State for $3.5MM.
  • After a down year besieged by injuries in 2016/17, Reggie Jackson has recovered and returned to the court for the Pistons. He’s “only going to get better as time goes on” head coach Stan Van Gundy told the media, Brendan Savage of MLive included.
  • The Bulls are looking to regroup after a fight in practice set the team into chaos before the season even began. Sam Smith of the team’s official website offers an inside account of what happened and what comes next.

Bulls Hire Doug Collins As Senior Advisor

The Bulls have hired former NBA head coach Doug Collins to a front office role, announcing today in a press release that Collins is joining the organization as a senior advisor of basketball operations. Collins will report to Bulls executive VP of basketball ops John Paxson, according to the team.

“Doug will be great in this capacity for our organization. The position of ‘senior advisor’ has proven to work well around the NBA in recent years, and I am confident the same will hold true with the Bulls,” Bulls chairman Jerry Reinsdorf said in a statement. “The fact that our relationship goes back more than 30 years certainly helps, but he is especially qualified to assist our leadership in rebuilding the Bulls.”

In a statement of his own, Paxson suggested that Collins will “regularly contribute observations, insights and suggestions” to the Bulls’ front office, with Vincent Goodwill of CSNChicago.com (Twitter link) likening Collins’ new role to the one that Jerry West previously held with the Warriors — and now holds with the Clippers.

Collins, of course, began his NBA coaching career more than three decades ago for the Bulls. He was named Chicago’s head coach in 1986, and held that position until 1989. Collins later went on to coach the Pistons, Wizards, and Sixers, with his most recent coaching stint in Philadelphia coming to an end in 2013. He has served as an ESPN analyst in recent years.

Central Notes: Marjanovic, Payne, George

Expect Pistons big man Boban Marjanovic to get more of an opportunity to shine next season. Rod Beard of the Detroit News writes that fans can expect current backup center Aron Baynes to explore free agency by turning down his player option, leaving Marjonvic as the next man up behind Andre Drummond.

In limited action Marjanovic showed flashes of excellence, no surprise considering he did just that with the Spurs in 2015/16. Per 36, his 23.5 points and 16.0 rebounds make him a particularly compelling option for a Pistons team that often has to bench Drummond on account of his poor free-throw shooting.

Unfortunately, as the Pistons struggled and eventually failed to sneak into the postseason, Marjanovic was rarely used in 2016/17.

This is a fault of ours that we really didn’t build anything around him, either offensively or defensively,” Pistons head coach Stan Van Gundy said last month. “We have to do some defensive things to help him and we’ve got to get him the ball even more offensively, but he was our third center, so we didn’t build enough around him. Certainly we will, going forward.

There’s more from the Central Division:

  • The Bulls are still very high on Cameron Payne, Vincent Goodwill of CSN Chicago writes, despite the fact that the guard wasn’t featured as heavily as some thought he would be following the deal in which they acquired him.
  • While they may be exploring their trade options, the Bulls mean no disrespect to starting swingman Jimmy Butler, K.C. Johnson of the Chicago Tribune writes. “Don’t misunderstand: We think the world of him. You can’t say enough good things about how this young man has made himself the player that he is,” team executive vice president John Paxson said.
  • A panel of NBA.com columnists discussed what they would do with Paul George this offseason and how big of a priority retaining him would be if they stepped into the role of incoming Pacers president Kevin Pritchard.
  • The Bucks worked out a handful of NCAA seniors today, with the full list of players available at the team’s official website. Milwaukee will pick No. 17 in this year’s draft.

Bulls Notes: Rondo, Hoiberg, Butler, Mirotic

Bulls executives John Paxson and Gar Forman spoke to the media in a Wednesday press conference that lasted the better part of an hour. Although Paxson and Forman didn’t exactly lay out their offseason blueprint, several of their answers provided hints about the Bulls’ next steps.

For one, Paxson praised Rajon Rondo and said there’s a “really good chance” that the team will retain the veteran point guard for next season, per Nick Friedell of ESPN.com (Twitter link). As we outlined this morning in our Offseason Cap Digest for the Bulls, Rondo’s $13.397MM salary is currently only partially guaranteed for $3MM, so Chicago could save more than $10MM by cutting him — but likely won’t.

Here are more items of note from today’s presser, with all links via Friedell unless otherwise indicated:

  • Paxson reiterated today that Fred Hoiberg will return as the Bulls’ head coach next season (Twitter link).
  • Although Paxson acknowledged that Jimmy Butler doesn’t necessarily fit into Chicago’s desire to play with pace, he said the Bulls “know his value”and that Butler is “far and away our best player” (Twitter links via K.C. Johnson of The Chicago Tribune and Friedell).
  • The Bulls will sit down with Butler and Dwyane Wade – who has a player option – within the next few weeks to discuss their respective futures (Twitter links).
  • Both Paxson and Forman spoke about the importance of establishing more consistent roles for players next season, particularly for the Bulls’ young guys (Twitter links).
  • The Bulls value Nikola Mirotic, according to Forman, who made it clear that there’s mutual interest between the two sides in getting a new deal done for the RFA-to-be (Twitter links).
  • Asked about coaching staff changes, Paxson said the team is “in the process of looking at everything.” With Hoiberg a lock to return, any changes made would be to the assistant coaches (Twitter links via Johnson).
  • The Bulls want to add shooting and athleticism this summer, according to Paxson (Twitter link).
  • The Bulls continue to stress the idea of maintaining flexibility for 2018 and beyond. Paxson suggested that it would be “difficult” to make significant changes to the roster this summer, while Forman talked about the advantage of saving cap room rather than committing to multiple long-term deals right away (Twitter links via Friedell and Vincent Goodwill of CSNChicago.com).
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