Fun story coming out of The Ringer from Kevin O’Connor today, going into how front-offices view ‘success’, as in it not always meaning a championship. There’s specific juicy stuff on the Bulls front office dynamic. Of course they’re the farthest thing from ‘dynamic’, I mean that term in the sense of it being an internal clusterfuck.
When the Bulls and Celtics talked Butler last summer, there was organizational disharmony between Chicago’s four primary decision-makers (owner Jerry Reinsdorf, president Michael Reinsdorf, general manager Gar Forman, and vice president of basketball operations John Paxson). Not all of them were committed to rebuilding; according to a league front-office executive, Paxson “sees the writing on the wall,” whereas Forman is comfortable with the status quo, while ownership is not amenable to any potential trades.
As stated, this is around the time of the draft last year and not the current Bulls mindset, though even after seeing the first half of this season waste our lives it doesn’t look like the team’s budged much.
You can believe O’Connor’s reporting, or (to a lesser extent) Joe Cowley’s latest hit, or the various KC Johnson articles regarding the front office (and I’ve heard several KC radio spots this season - I lead an exciting life - where he indicated one of the Bulls braintrust wanted a rebuild...guess we know now that’s Paxson), and they all sort of point towards the same messy situation.
And worse yet it may be influencing the current talks with the a Jimmy Butler trade with the Celtics. Because I’ve heard it referenced by Zach Lowe and David Aldridge that the Bulls are still insisting on already-ready players like Jae Crowder of Avery Bradley in return for Butler, like they had done before the 2016 draft. This doesn’t really make sense. For one thing, trade talks becomes a non-starter from Boston’s perspective, as they want those guys for a playoff push if they’re trading for Jimmy Butler this season. And it doesn’t make sense for a rebuilding team to acquire guys like them, even Crowder who’s on a great contract (Bradley only has a year remaining before free agency), because if you trade Jimmy Butler now you’re going to be a terrible basketball team.
But it does make sense, in a way, if you consider it’s Gar Forman driving this thing, or at least a shared hand on the wheel. You can get to the heart of the matter in saying that his (and Reinsdorf’s?) idea of ‘staying competitive’ and making money during a rebuild makes little sense, but what’s worse is that Forman has shown he can’t execute this poor plan correctly. He screwed up with firing Thibodeau to hire Fred Hoiberg. He screwed up when figuring the best way to build around Jimmy Butler was to target and sign Rajon friggin’ Rondo. These are really huge, fire-able, mistakes, and it’d be another mistake to prioritize established players in a Jimmy Butler trade. Even if you think Gar is being pushed by ownership to make the business happy, his only move that actually moves the needle there there was signing Dwyane Wade, something which was complete happenstance. Nobody is sponsoring a jumbotron race because fans came to see Rajon Rondo or Jae Crowder.
So John Paxson. here’s what you need to do, instead of having it leaked out there that you’re ‘the good one’:
If you’re actually serious about a rebuild, fire Gar Forman. He’s failed miserably the past few years and shouldn’t oversee this Butler trade, it’s too important. And then prioritize your demands from Boston to be picks and young assets. Only trade Butler to them if it’s an obvious win in not only getting the 2017 Brooklyn pick, but multiple other firsts, and making your own 2017 first-rounder more quality because your Bulls would now be tanking (meaning you trade anything else you can as well). If Boston says no to that, then keep Butler and wait until after the lottery and when the Celtics lose in the 2nd round after getting out-rebounded by 20 and Isaiah Thomas shooting 4-14 in a couple fourth quarters. Not only will that Brooklyn pick still be potentially available, but other suitors can emerge to drive up the price, with the certainty of knowing when incoming picks will actually be slotted. I thought before the season Butler should only be traded for a blue-chip draftee or young superstar, and Butler’s only gotten better since.
Don’t settle, because not only is Butler a great player, but with the attitude and price point that he’s ideal to build around. You still need to fire Gar and Hoiberg of course, and also hire a new GM since you don’t want to work that hard and really shouldn’t get to oversee yet another team-build. Pivot towards a short-term fix with your cap space (and Wade and Butler recruiting) and unlike Forman acquire players who can successfully work with Butler - which isn’t that hard! - have a better and more fun team and hope for the same amount of luck that you would’ve required the draft. Though ideally any new GM you find (let’s face it, it’ll be from thumbing through old Bulls media guides) selects players better than you and Gar have over the past 5 years.
And Pax, if ownership chooses Gar’s plan (which, again, not only is a bad plan, but isn’t actually working), or tears-inducing loyalty doesn’t allow for Gar to be fired, just quit already.