The assumption that Bulls executive vice president of basketball operations John Paxson is leaving the organization at season's end, after persistent speculation that he nearly quit after the trade deadline, is still out there. But it really shouldn't be.
Sources with knowledge of the Bulls' thinking indicate that Paxson, while still very eager to relinquish day-to-day duties in Chicago's front office in spite of the Bulls' recent return to semi-prominence, is expected to stay in the organization as its senior basketball voice without losing much (if any) influence in big-ticket decision making.
In a scenario relayed by a few of his peers, Paxson would move into a still-to-be-defined role as a top adviser to Bulls chairman Jerry Reinsdorf, with director of player personnel Gar Forman taking over as the every-day personnel chief.
Such an alignment -- similar to Michael Jordan's arrangement in Charlotte, where Rod Higgins handles the daily duties -- would allow Paxson to continue to participate in the major trade and draft matters he enjoys while relinquishing the management headaches that have increasingly unsettled him. Shifting those duties to Forman would continue the expansion of a role that began to take shape last summer when Forman was asked by Reinsdorf to step in for Paxson on a good chunk of the Bulls' negotiations to re-sign forward Luol Deng.
"The best way to describe it," one insider says, "is that John is going to be moving up, not out."
After a difficult run marked by the failed free-agent signing of Ben Wallace, preferring Tyrus Thomas over LaMarcus Aldridge in the 2006 draft and a string of trade frustrations that led to a steady stream of criticism after so many positive reviews early in his tenure, Paxson has been at the heart of the Bulls' rally this season. Using the No. 1 overall pick on Chicago native and eventual rookie of the year Derrick Rose wasn't exactly risky, but Paxson's trade-deadline acquisitions of John Salmons and Brad Miller are widely seen as the spark that sent the Bulls from eight games under .500 as late as March 13 to the East's No. 7 seed.
With follow up from KC Johnson
ESPN.com's Marc Stein is one of the more plugged in and respected NBA writers working. His online piece posted Saturday on John Paxson's future, however, is presented as if it breaks new ground when it actually rehashes details from a Feb. 13 Tribune report from All-Star weekend.
The Tribune piece ran in response to a Feb. 13 New York Post blog item claiming Paxson would resign as the Bulls' vice president of basketball operations as soon as the Feb. 19 trade deadline passed.
The Tribune first reported on Feb. 13 that Paxson had tired of many demands of the GM job such as scouting and dealing with player agents and had delegated most of those to Gar Forman, the team's director of player personnel. The piece also detailed a likely chain of events in which Paxson would give up his current title to Forman yet take something along the lines of "senior adviser to the chairman," Jerry Reinsdorf.
This plan is still largely intact, although no announcement will be made until after the Bulls' playoff run concludes. Paxson still will have major--if not final--say on all basketball operations decisions. And Forman will handle more of the day-to-day duties as GM, not unlike the Michael Jordan-Rod Higgins setup in Charlotte.
Stein first uses that analogy in his ESPN.com piece. It's a good one.
And Mike McGraw
These stories all pointed out that Paxson is anxious to get a break from the "day-to-day responsibilities" of being the team's executive vice president of basketball operations, and would be replaced in that role by player personnel director Gar Forman.
Here's the real story: The changes in the Bulls front office have already occurred and been well-documented.
Paxson shared news last summer that Forman took the lead role in contract negotiations with Luol Deng and Ben Gordon. That was simply because Forman's calm demeanor was well-suited for the task. Paxson admitted he can get too emotional during the process.
Paxson has cut down on his scouting over the years, and he included Forman on the coaching interviews the Bulls conducted last summer. All teams have more than one person involved in potential trades.
What other day-to-day responsibilities are there in running an NBA team? The job entails acquiring players, through the draft and trades; negotiating contracts, and hiring a coaching staff. This isn't a grocery store with inventory and payroll to monitor.
The bottom line is Paxson is not planning to take on a new role. He has simply received some help. When the season ends, Forman may be given a new title to reflect his increasing duties, but Paxson will continue to do the same thing he is now, which puts him in much the same situation as Detroit's Joe Dumars or Miami's Pat Riley when it comes to running a team.
Forman used to work with Tim Floyd at the college level, and he basically joined the Bulls as a scout on Floyd's recommendation. But he has continued to rise in the organization nearly eight years after Floyd's departure. That's the more interesting story.
All I can really say is that journalists and journalism sucks ass.
I'd also like to know when Karl Rove and David Axelrod are going to be officially listed as the Bulls media directors.