John Paxson

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).

John Paxson’s Role May Expand In Chicago

The Bulls are considering front office changes this offseason, which may include more day-to-day control of the team for vice president John Paxson, tweets Marc Stein of ESPN.com.

That ties into a story from K.C. Johnson of The Chicago Tribune, who suggests that “subtle” front office changes are in the works. Organizational meetings are planned for this week, and management may hold a press conference to announce the moves as soon as tomorrow.

Johnson notes that the Tribune reported in February that Paxson and GM Gar Forman were safe in their jobs even if the Bulls missed the playoffs. Chicago rallied to claim the eighth seed, then took a 2-0 lead over the Celtics before being eliminated in six games.
Forman has promised that coach Fred Hoiberg will return in the fall to begin his third season, even though he has become the target of fan wrath. The crowd at Game 6 was loudly chanting “Fire Hoiberg” as the final minutes ticked away.

Behind the scenes, the Reinsdorf family still has faith in its management team, but team president Michael Reinsdorf is an advocate for more debate on key decisions. Paxson’s brother, Jim, a former GM of the Cavaliers, is someone who could be given a stronger voice in the organization.

Bulls Notes: Butler, Rondo, Payne

As the dust settles on Chicago’s elimination from the NBA postseason, the topic of conversation shifts from their impressive early series performance against the Celtics to what they’ll do in the offseason. Jimmy Butler, for what it’s worth, tells Nick Friedell of ESPN that he’d like to remain with the Bulls.

Butler is well aware of the fact that he’ll be featured heavily in trade rumors this offseason but went so far as to say that he hoped the Bulls front office would retain potential free agent Rajon Rondo. The Bulls have a player option on the second year of the veteran guard’s contract.

He’s been huge for us this year,” Butler said. “[…] But I don’t know what the future holds for anybody. So I’ll sit back and wait on that time to come.

The 27-year-old swingman put up 23.9 points, 6.2 rebounds and 5.5 assists per game for the Bulls despite the notoriously chaotic campaign and has said all the right things when it comes to his future in Chicago.

Whether the Bulls front office decides to keep the core that looked so promising in Games 1 and 2 of their first-round series together for another crack at Eastern Conference success in 2017/18, however, remains to be seen.

There’s more from Chicago:

  • It was a frustrating season for Bulls fans, one they can blame on executives Gar Forman and John Paxon. ESPN’s Nick Friedell recently wrote about how the front office hasn’t exactly stuck to the message they initially broadcast to fans about a pending rebuild.
  • Count The Vertical’s Shams Charania among those looking to make sense of the Bulls’ options heading forward. Much of what unfolds could depend on Dwyane Wade‘s player option, which at this point remains up in the air. Per Charania, Wade and Jimmy Butler will eventually discuss the decision “face-to-face”.
  • A series of ESPN Insider panelists recently discussed the looming decisions that the Bulls will have to make. Despite a dramatic 2016/17, the consensus believes we’ll see a similar roster in 2017/18 once the front office picks up Rajon Rondo’s option and Dwyane Wade takes his.
  • The Bulls still need a point guard for their future, K.C. Johnson of the Chicago Tribune writes. “It’s tough. We’re asking guys to play roles they haven’t played all year,” head coach Fred Hoiberg said of asking players like Dwyane Wade, Isaiah Canaan and even Paul Zipser to bring up the ball in their elimination game Friday.
  • The carousal of point guards that the Bulls trotted out this season didn’t impress Berry Tramel of the Oklahoman. The Thunder columnist wrote about how Cameron Payne – the supposed primary factor in the Taj Gibson deal – was Chicago’s fifth-string point guard.

Bulls To Hold Post-Playoff Meeting With Butler

The Bulls plan to meet with Jimmy Butler after the playoffs to express their support for keeping him, writes Joe Cowley of The Chicago Sun-Times.

The session will be separate from routine exit interviews, and Cowley describes it as an attempt to repair a deteriorating relationship. John Paxson, the team’s vice president of basketball operations, will attend the meeting, but it’s uncertain if GM Gar Forman will be there.

Butler was reportedly angered after hearing his name mentioned in trade rumors around the deadline and last year’s draft. He received a $95MM contract extension two years ago, but never felt like the team really committed to him.

 He was also upset when Paxson said in a press conference after the trade deadline, “You build with players. We are building with Jimmy right now.’’ Butler became determined to lead the Bulls to the playoffs and show the front office that he was the type of player to build around, not just with.

A source told Cowley that Butler has communicated to the front office and to teammates that he wants to stay in Chicago. He is expected to repeat that sentiment in the upcoming meeting, with a warning that the Bulls should stop leaking his name in trade rumors if they really want to keep him.

Butler is signed for two more seasons with a $19.84MM player option in 2019/20.

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