John Paxson

Bulls Notes: Front Office, Boylen, Forman, Paxson

On a conference call today introducing new executive VP of basketball operations Arturas Karnisovas, Bulls COO Michael Reinsdorf said that it was clear during the search process that the former Denver GM “checked every box,” as K.C. Johnson of NBC Sports Chicago tweets. Reinsdorf admitted that his father, Bulls chairman Jerry Reinsdorf, ultimately had to sign off on the hire, but said “it was clear after that meeting that we had our guy.”

Karnisovas, meanwhile, confirmed that J.J. Polk and Pat Connelly will join the Bulls’ front office, as previously reported, and said that hiring a general manager is next on his list of priorities. According to Karnisovas, the GM search will be “extensive and diverse,” and the goal will be to hire an executive whose skills complement his own, rather than overlapping significantly with his strengths (all Twitter links via K.C. Johnson).

As for the future of head coach Jim Boylen, that remains up in the air, with Karnisovas telling reporters that there’s no timeline for a decision on Boylen or the coaching staff (Twitter link via Johnson).

Boylen took the unusual step of issuing a welcome message to the new head of basketball operations through the team’s PR department, lauding Karnisovas’ résumé and commending the Reinsdorfs for bringing him aboard.

Here’s more on the Bulls:

  • Karnisovas offered the following explanation when asked about Gar Forman‘s dismissal: “After some consideration and conversation, it was apparent that we have different philosophies that will prevent us from moving forward. Those decisions are never easy. I was hired to affect change” (Twitter link via Johnson).
  • Joe Cowley of The Chicago Sun-Times tweets that Forman’s departure should increase the Bulls’ appeal to free agents. Forman’s presence “poisoned the well” with players and agents, according to Cowley, who says the longtime general manager was viewed as “untrustworthy.”
  • Confirming a recent report, Michael Reinsdorf said today that it was John Paxson who came to ownership in the winter to suggest the need for changes in the front office (Twitter link via Johnson). Previously the Bulls’ executive VP of basketball operations, Paxson will now be a senior advisor.
  • After facing some criticism last week for a perceived lack of diversity in the Bulls’ front office search, Reinsdorf defended the team’s record on that front, as Johnson details for NBC Sports Chicago. According to Reinsdorf, two of the six candidates on the team’s short list for head of basketball operations were people of color, but Chicago was denied permission to interview both.
  • Karnisovas said today that facilitating player development will be one of his primary goals in Chicago, since the Bulls are a young team with a handful of promising young players (Twitter link via Johnson).

Bulls Officially Move John Paxson To Advisory Role

With Arturas Karnisovas taking over the executive VP of basketball operations position that he previously held, John Paxson has been named a senior advisor of basketball operations, the Bulls announced today in a press release.

“John has an invaluable perspective on our organization and where we want to be, and he played an instrumental role in this change by bringing forward the idea of a restructure and reorganization,” Bulls chairman Jerry Reinsdorf said in a statement. “I have always held his knowledge and basketball insight in the highest regard, and he has earned my respect as well as that of his peers. His decision to take on a new role reflects what I’ve always known about John – that he is forever a willing teammate on and off of the court and always does what he believes is in the best interest of the Chicago Bulls.”

After spending nine years with the Bulls as a player and then joining the coaching staff as an assistant in 1995, Paxson spent some time as a broadcaster before being brought back to Chicago as the team’s general manager in 2003. He became the executive VP of basketball operations in 2009.

After he and longtime GM Gar Forman ran the Bulls’ front office for the last decade, Paxson’s re-assignment had been expected. He was reportedly prepared to leave the organization altogether if newly-hired head of basketball operations Karnisovas decided that was in the team’s best interests.

However, a report last week suggested that Karnisovas viewed Paxson as “a resource, not a roadblock.” Another report indicated that Paxson will only weigh in on basketball decisions if asked by Karnisovas for his input.

The Bulls parted ways with Forman today after officially announcing the hiring of Karnisovas.

Bulls Eye Several Assistant GMs For Their GM Job

Arturas Karnisovas, who is expected to be named the Bulls’ executive VP of basketball operations, will conduct interviews with a number of general manager candidates in the near future, Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN tweets.

The Nuggets’ Calvin Booth, the Sixers’ Marc Eversley, the Clippers’ Mark Hughes and the Magic’s Matt Lloyd are among several assistant GMs around the league under consideration, Wojnarowski adds. The Bulls’ office will start seeking permission from other teams to conduct interviews with everyone on their list, Wojnarowski reports in another tweet.

However, Booth could be promoted by Denver to replace Karnisovas, who emerged as Chicago’s choice as its top front office executive on Wednesday.

The Thunder’s Troy Weaver and Nazr Mohammed and the Mavericks’ Michael Finley are also candidates for the GM job, Joe Cowley of the Chicago Sun-Times tweets.

No matter which executive that Karnisovas chooses, current GM Gar Forman will lose his title. It’s uncertain whether Forman will be reassigned or simply let go by the organization. Karnisovas will decide Forman’s future, according to another Cowley tweet.

Longtime Bulls executive VP of basketball operations John Paxson is expected to remain in an advisory position with Karnisovas and ownership making the final decisions.

The Bulls were reportedly denied permission by the Thunder to speak with Weaver, OKC’s VP of basketball operations, during the search process for an executive VP. Whether the Thunder have changed their stance on Weaver remains to be seen. The Bulls did hold an informal interview with Mohammed recently for another front office job.

Nuggets’ Karnisovas Leading Candidate For Bulls’ Job?

11:32am: The Bulls have completed their interview with Karnisovas, sources tell K.C. Johnson of NBC Sports Chicago, who notes (via Twitter) that the team wants to make a hire sooner rather than later.

9:27am: Nuggets general manager Arturas Karnisovas is “the leader in the clubhouse” for the Bulls‘ open front office position, multiple sources tell Vincent Goodwill of Yahoo Sports. Chicago is said to be seeking an executive who will have full authority on basketball decisions, and Karnisovas was named early in the search process as one of the club’s top candidates.

Other executives identified among the first wave of targets for the Bulls, including Pacers GM Chad Buchanan and Heat assistant GM Adam Simon, will remain with their current teams. That may be the case for Raptors GM Bobby Webster too. And while Chicago did conduct a video interview on Monday with Utah’s Justin Zanik, Goodwill suggests the Jazz seem “intent” on hanging onto their GM.

However, the Bulls received permission to speak to Karnisovas about their open position and reportedly have a video interview lined up with him for the middle of this week. As Goodwill explains, Denver’s GM has a strong draft record and has a good reputation for player development, which are two characteristics the Bulls are prioritizing in their search for a new basketball operations exec.

“(Bulls COO Michael Reinsdorf) wants someone who’ll surround himself with smart people, a great talent evaluator,” a source told Yahoo Sports. “There’s a need to get better in the player development department, too.”

Sources tell Goodwill that Reinsdorf wants someone who “has a presence publicly,” which would stand in contrast to the reticence of John Paxson and Gar Forman over the years. According to Goodwill, the Bulls are also looking to beef up their scouting staff, with Forman potentially moving from his general manager position to a scouting role.

Finally, sources confirm to Goodwill that Paxson – the team’s longtime head of basketball operations – will be “as involved or uninvolved” as the incoming hire wants him to be, as reports on Tuesday indicated. There’s an expectation that Paxson will move behind the scenes to an advisory role, but that’s still to be determined.

Bulls’ Paxson Reportedly Willing To Step Down If Asked

While there has been skepticism that Bulls executive VP of basketball operations John Paxson will relinquish all of his front office power when the team hires a new executive, a source tells Joe Cowley of The Chicago Sun-Times that Paxson is prepared to do whatever is best for the franchise.

As Cowley details, Paxson is “all for” stepping aside and moving into more of an advisory role in the new front office structure, which is what has been rumored in recent weeks.

However, the veteran Bulls executive is willing to go even further than that, according to Cowley, who hears that Paxson would step down from the organization entirely if ownership and management felt that was in the team’s best interests amidst the latest rebuild.

Cowley’s source “insists” that Paxson is prepared for either scenario and that he’s not simply saying what he thinks everyone wants to hear. Still, the timing of the report is interesting. The Bulls haven’t had a ton of luck securing interviews with their first wave of candidates — Pacers GM Chad Buchanan and Heat assistant GM Adam Simon will remain with their current teams, and it sounds like Raptors GM Bobby Webster likely will too.

It’s possible that some of those candidates – hearing that Paxson would remain in a prominent role – were skeptical that they’d truly have “full authority” on basketball decisions in Chicago’s front office. The latest rumblings out of Chicago may be intended to show other candidates that they won’t be reporting to Paxson.

It’s still hard to imagine team owner Jerry Reinsdorf – a longtime Paxson backer – asking him to leave the organization altogether, but K.C. Johnson of NBC Sports Chicago stresses that Paxson is willing to “take as small a role as the new hire wants.”

For what it’s worth, Cowley notes in a separate report that Paxson didn’t participate in Monday’s interview with Jazz GM Justin Zanik, and ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski said in Monday’s tweet that Zanik was interviewing for the “executive VP of basketball operations” job, which is Paxson’s current title.

Chad Buchanan To Stay With Pacers, Turns Down Interview With Bulls

Pacers general manager Chad Buchanan is declining an opportunity to interview for the Bulls‘ top front office position, tweets Shams Charania of The Athletic. Buchanan decided to remain in his current job, saying he and his family have been treated well by the organization.

Toronto’s Bobby Webster, Miami’s Adam Simon and Denver’s Arturas Karnisovas are the most prominent remaining candidates for the position, Charania adds, but Chicago will continue to research other possibilities (Twitter link).

Buchanan, who is in his third year as Indiana’s GM, also worked with president of basketball operations Kevin Pritchard in Portland before they both came to Indiana. His comfort level with that partnership played a strong role in the decision to stay, a source tells K.C. Johnson of NBC Sports Chicago.

The Bulls are seeking permission to interview Webster, Simon and Karnisovas, according to Johnson, who adds that team president Michael Reinsdorf hopes to fill the position before the NBA hiatus is over. Whoever is ultimately hired to run the organization may make more hires and will launch an overhaul of the scouting department.

Executive vice president John Paxson is expected to be retained in an advisory role, but the fate of former GM Gar Forman, who is now working mainly in scouting, may be determined by the new regime. Reinsdorf is still a strong supporter of coach Jim Boylen, Johnson notes, but the fate of all the coaches will be decided by the new team president.

Assistant GM Steve Weinman is believed to be safe, Johnson writes. He has built a strong reputation for his expertise with salary cap issues and the collective bargaining agreement.

Bulls Notes: Markkanen, Porter, Boylen, White

Bulls power forward Lauri Markkanen was unhappy with the direction of the offense under coach Jim Boylen and his role in it, according to Joe Cowley of the Chicago Sun-Times. Markkanen’s frustration had reached a point where he’d rather be dealt if organization changes weren’t made, Cowley continues. It’s possible the new front office executive — the Bulls are lining up interviews with candidates — could look to trade Markkanen if they feel the relationship is beyond repair, Cowley adds.

We have more on the Bulls:

  • Within that same story, Cowley writes that the Bulls are keeping a close eye on the Heat. In addition to seeking an interview with Miami’s assistant GM Adam Simon, Chicago has also considered emulating the Heat’s front office structure, and has done homework on free agents like Goran Dragic and Derrick Jones.
  • Otto Porter Jr. will likely be in a lame duck situation as the team’s small forward next season, Cowley writes in a separate story. Porter will surely exercise his $28.5MM option for next season after an injury-plagued campaign and his salary will come off the books just in time for the much-anticipated 2021 free-agent class. Boylen has even hinted he might have Porter come off the bench next season.
  • Boylen’s future with the organization will be determined by the lead executive the Bulls hire, K.C. Johnson of NBC Sports Chicago reports. Boylen has the support of COO Michael Reinsdorf and executive VP John Paxson but a desire of the new executive to hire his own coach wouldn’t be a deal-breaker, Johnson continues, confirming one of his earlier stories. While Reinsdorf has been handling the search, Paxson has been a driving force on the need for change and a more modern front office, Johnson adds.
  • The team’s ceiling for next season with its current group is a low-end playoff seed unless 2019 lottery pick Coby White develops rapidly, Kevin Pelton of ESPN opines. White needs to emerge as a knockdown shooter, something he flashed late in the season.  It’s unlikely the new executive will pursue an extension with Markkanen, but if he bounces back and breaks out, the Bulls can still benefit by utilizing his “relatively modest” $20.2MM cap hold as he enters restricted free agency, Pelton adds.

Bulls To Seek Interviews With Karnisovas, Webster, Others

1:24pm: Pacers GM Chad Buchanan will  join Karnisovas and Webster on the Bulls’ list of first-wave interview targets, per K.C. Johnson of The Chicago Tribune (via Twitter). Sources tell Darnell Mayberry and Shams Charania of The Athletic (Twitter link) that Heat assistant GM Adam Simon will be part of that group as well.

According to Mayberry (Twitter link), the Bulls won’t pursue Ujiri or Thunder head of basketball operations Sam Presti and won’t go the player-agent route like New York and other teams have.

12:41pm: The Bulls have formally launched their search for a new top front office executive who will have full authority on basketball decisions, reports ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski. We had previously heard in a series of February reports that the team was laying the groundwork for front office changes.

Those February reports suggested that executive VP of basketball operations John Paxson would retain a “valuable seat at the table” amidst the front office upheaval and that general manager Gar Forman would have his responsibilities cut back.

Wojnarowski confirms that Paxson is expected to continue in an advisory role and says that the club will have more conversations with Forman about his future. Previous reports indicated Forman would likely be re-assigned to a scouting position.

According to Wojnarowski, Chicago plans to seek permission to interview Nuggets general manager Arturas Karnisovas and Raptors GM Bobby Webster, among others. The club’s goal is to complete its planned front office changes “well before” the NBA resumes play, per Woj, who hears that interviews will begin next week and will be conducted virtually rather than in person due to the coronavirus.

Neither Karnisovas nor Webster is the head of basketball operations for his respective team — Tim Connelly serves as Denver’s president of basketball operations, while Masai Ujiri holds that position in Toronto. However, the two GMs have risen through their respective organizations in recent years and have played important roles in building the Nuggets’ and Raptors’ talented rosters.

According to K.C. Johnson of NBC Sports Chicago, who identified Karnisovas and Webster as two possible targets for the Bulls in a March mailbag, Pacers GM Chad Buchanan, Heat assistant GM Adam Simon, Jazz GM Justin Zanik, and Clippers GM Michael Winger are among the other executives on Bulls president/COO Michael Reinsdorf‘s list of potential candidates (Twitter link).

Many of those executives are under contract beyond the 2019/20 season, but likely wouldn’t be held back by their respective teams if the Bulls’ job is viewed as a promotion from their current roles. Based on Woj’s description, it should be.

The timing of Chicago’s search is interesting. Ujiri spoke earlier this week about putting business like contract extensions for himself and Nick Nurse on hold during the NBA’s stoppage, and we heard on Thursday that the Knicks aren’t pursuing front office changes or a new head coach during the hiatus. Nets GM Sean Marks also said this week that his team isn’t moving forward with its head coach search at this time.

However, no official hiring or firing freeze has been instituted by the NBA, and the Bulls’ situation is a little different from that of those other teams — a new top front office executive would lead the team’s decisions in the draft and free agency, making that search a more pressing matter than a head coaching hire, lower-level front office changes, or extensions for current execs and coaches.

Latest On Bulls’ Front Office Search

After Joe Cowley of The Chicago Sun-Times and K.C. Johnson of NBC Sports Chicago reported during All-Star weekend that the Bulls were laying the groundwork to hire a new general manager and re-assign Gar Forman to a scouting role, both reporters have offered updates on Chicago’s forthcoming front office changes.

A source tells Cowley that the Bulls are still determining how the power structure in the new-look front office will work, noting that multiple executives could be hired, rather than just a GM to replace Forman. Cowley’s source also says that VP of basketball operations John Paxson will still have a “valuable seat at the table” in the restructured front office, even if it appears as if he’s transitioning to a background role.

While it remains to be seen how the Bulls’ management group will be structured once new hires are made, Cowley’s report indicates that Paxson and COO Michael Reinsdorf are still “running the show.” The Reinsdorfs – including owner Jerry Reinsdorf – have “100 percent faith” in Paxson to lead the organization, Cowley writes.

If a new general manager has to report to Paxson, it may be more challenging for the Bulls to recruit a top-tier candidate. However, K.C. Johnson hears from multiple league sources that Pacers general manager Chad Buchanan is one candidate who appears to be gaining momentum.

Buchanan, who previously held front office roles in Charlotte and Portland, was named Indiana’s GM in 2017 when the team promoted Kevin Pritchard to president of basketball operations. According to Johnson, Buchanan is “widely known for his embrace of analytics.” He and Pritchard have done a good job retooling the Pacers’ roster over the last three years, starting with the Paul George trade that netted the team a pair of All-Stars (Victor Oladipo and Domantas Sabonis) despite being widely panned at the time.

Because he’s already a level below the head of basketball operations in Indiana, Buchanan may be open to a position working under – or alongside – Paxson in Chicago. Still, Johnson’s report doesn’t suggest that the Bulls have asked for or received permission to interview the Pacers’ executive yet.

Bulls Preparing For Front Office Changes

7:57pm: K.C. Johnson of NBC Sports Chicago echoes many of Cowley’s points in his own report, writing that talk has been “rampant throughout All-Star weekend” about the changes the Bulls are expected to make to their front office. The team is seeking someone to take on the day-to-day basketball operations and become a “fresh voice and face of the franchise,” writes Johnson.

7:21pm: The Bulls are in the early stages of adding a new executive to their front office, sources tell Joe Cowley of The Chicago Sun-Times. According to Cowley, vice president of basketball operations John Paxson and COO Michael Reinsdorf have begun to do legwork – through back channels – on potential candidates.

Cowley, who suggests the Bulls are in the market for a general manager “with a louder voice,” writes that the search is expected to be widespread. Gar Forman still holds the GM role in Chicago for now, but senior advisor Doug Collins is among those who are in favor of a change, according to Cowley.

As Cowley explains, the idea would be for Paxson to “slip into the background” as the new general manager assumes media duties. Bulls chairman Jerry Reinsdorf likes the model employed by the Chicago White Sox, with Ken Williams in the background as the VP while Rick Hahn has been more empowered in his GM role. For the Bulls, Paxson would take on a Williams-esque role, with the new GM playing Hahn’s part.

Forman, meanwhile, would likely be reassigned to a scouting position rather than being fired, per Cowley, who notes that the team wants to build up its scouting department this spring.

Paxson and Forman have headed the Bulls’ front office for over a decade, much to the chagrin of a significant faction of Bulls fans. During Friday’s episode of ESPN’s First Take, when guard Zach LaVine was asked whether he has confidence in Chicago’s decision-makers, the fans in attendance began to boo and a chant of “Fire GarPax!” broke out (link via Madeline Kenney of The Chicago Sun-Times).

Assuming the Bulls do move forward with the front office changes Cowley outlines in his report, it’ll be interesting to see whether the club sticks with head coach Jim Boylen, who has received the full support of the current group. Boylen’s current contract isn’t a long-term deal, so it’s possible a new GM would be given the go-ahead to make the call on his future.