With the NBA world focused on the Golden State Warriors' hunt for 73 wins or Kobe Bryant's last game for the Los Angeles Lakers and Chicago watching playoff hockey, Bulls vice president of basketball operations John Paxson and general manager Gar Forman decided to hold their season postmortem immediately after the meaningless final game of a miserable season....As for their futures with the Bulls, here's the obvious news: Paxson and Forman are not going anywhere. Have they even talked about their job status with chairman Jerry Reinsdorf and his son, president and chief operating officer Michael Reinsdorf?
"We haven't discussed that at all," Paxson said.
Really? Not at all?
"No, no, and as far I've heard, someone told me tonight that there was a report that Gar's job is in jeopardy," Paxson said. "It's not.''
Jerry Reinsdorf's name was attributed to a statement Wednesday night. Whomever wrote it noted the Bulls will be "strategic and aggressive" in improving the team this offseason.
Heh, how dare you suggest someone else wrote Jerry Reinsdorf's statement while he was watching Carlos Rodon.
I watched a good portion of the press conference. While it was fairly nauseating, the assembled media (again, worth noting that there was no risk of national attention given what was going on around the league) did ask a lot of valid, tough questions. Like the direct one about Gar and Pax's job security.
The whole damned thing is transcribed at Bulls.com. It's definitely worth a look, though you're not going to find many smoking guns in terms of where their actual blame lies and thus what direction they'll go in. To summarize:
- Pax started by saying injuries weren't an excuse, but then made a bunch of injury excuses especially when it came to evaluating Fred Hoiberg. Did you know they never had their starting lineup together? It included a 35 year old with back problems, but nevermind that. Worth noting, Gar is on top of evaluating the medical staff.
- Pax: "Fred is going to have to work at it. He's going to have to devote a lot of time and energy to determining what he wants to be as a head coach and how he wants his teams to play." There was also an allusion to assistant coaching changes.
- Jimmy Butler's leader-ing was not appreciated. Pax cited M. Jeff Jordan as someone who didn't need to say he was a leader. Also cited Jordan as the only true 'untouchable' player when asked about Jimmy's future with the team. Everything is on the table, etc.
- On Derrick Rose, Pax went directly at Rose's defense as if he was an opposing point guard this season. Also deflected on #DerrickRoseSaysStuff by saying Rose has been through a lot, and is going to have a unique perspective as a result.
- Gar tried to defend his decision not to deal Pau Gasol at the deadline, essentially saying that having cap space from Pau walking was an asset. When pressed by suggesting that cap space isn't that valuable when every team will have it this summer, Gar effectively said that was still better than whatever they were proposed to get in a trade. So worse than nothing.
- Gasol wasn't mentioned much in terms of being re-signed. Noah was, especially with his intangible qualities, but no real sense of the Bulls desire to re-sign either.
- No criticism of Doug McDermott or Nikola Mirotic not stepping up this season because 'every young player has ups and downs'. Mirotic is 25 and McDermott is 24 and were sold as experienced rookies, but ok.
- One area where Pax tipped his hand a bit was his feelings on team chemistry and toughness. Like, he noticed the team didn't rally around Taj Gibson when he was fouled hard, and generally mentioned their lack of 'fight' and how disappointing that was. I'm kind of disappointed he thinks that is so important compared to the talent gap, but it's certainly an interesting philosophy.
Somehow the talent wasn't the problem, it was the ability to get them to be better than the sum of their parts...but that wasn't a coaching issue either. Yet Paxson, Forman, and Reinsdorf's writer seemed a lot more upset last year with a team that made the playoffs under a tough-minded leader.
Maybe it should be inferred that Pax really wasn't that happy with Hoiberg's performance. But that's certainly something they're going to run back next year, along with the guys who brought him in.