John Paxson

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.”

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.”

Central Notes: LaVine, Parker, Pistons

Comments from Bulls vice president John Paxson suggest that the franchise is keen on letting the market decide pending restricted free agent Zach LaVine‘s value and, as Joe Cowley of The Chicago Sun Times writes, the 23-year-old’s fate remains a dicey topic.

Cowley writes that a source of his claims that LaVine’s camp regards him as a max or close-to-max player but that the Bulls may not be so sure.

The Bulls, he adds, have been passive in restricted free agency negotiations in the past, “lowballing” Jimmy Butler back in 2015 and letting the market dictate Nikola Mirotic‘s value last summer.

Well, the market dictates a lot and how things go,” Paxson said. “I think the market has tightened up a little bit the last couple of years since the spike. [The Bulls] obviously value Zach a lot, and we think he’s a part of our future, but he has the opportunity to explore things.

There’s more from the Central Division:

Central Notes: Bulls, Cavs, Pistons

The Bulls are walking a fine line between developing young players and outright tanking, K.C. Johnson of The Chicago Tribune writes. The organization’s recent decision to sideline starters Robin Lopez and Justin Holiday is one glaring examples of the club’s bold strategy down the stretch.

While vice president John Paxson did proactively say the Bulls would be launching a player-development plan when the team returned from the All-Star Break, league commissioner Adam Silver is on a mission to curb the thought that teams could be losing on purpose.

To Paxson’s credit, there’s merit to the idea of auditioning unproven players during the final months of an otherwise lost campaign, gauging how individuals fare with heavier workloads is an essential part of planning for the future. The question is how well the Bulls can balance that with putting a reasonably competitive team out on the floor.

There’s more out of the Central Division:

  • The Cavaliers added four rotation players at the trade deadline, so it’s not surprising that head coach Tyronn Lue is still sizing up what exactly he has on his hands. “I just want to see what I’m working with,” Lue told Joe Vardon of Cleveland.com. “I really don’t know the guys that much, that well. Just want to see in big moments, pressure situations, how they perform. They performed well and they’ve been performing well.
  • The Pistons hope that Reggie Jackson is able to practice on March 11, prior to the team embarking on a six-game road trip, Keith Langlois of the team’s official site tweets.
  • Pistons coach Stan Van Gundy views his decision to take Eric Moreland out of the team’s rotation as a mistake, Geoff Robinson of The Detroit News writes. The bench boss plans to amend that by getting Moreland more minutes in order to capitalize on the energy he brings.

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.