Gar Forman, perhaps after being properly shamed, made some media appearances recently. It looks to be a concerted effort to insist there is some sort of plan at work here. This coming after a trade deadline where their direction looked more aimless than ever.
After hearing a lot of meandering Forman quotes, the plan seems to be: don’t have bad contracts, and then in 2018 (!) you can use that cap space to...some kind of advantage. After learning this, I almost wish I went back to thinking they had no plan. This plan is bad.
First, there was this column from KC Johnson of the Tribune that said that the Bulls have had similar plans to this one before, like in 2010. Then, they made moves to create cap space for big free agents like LeBron and Wade, but after whiffing on all of them made decent signings like Carlos Boozer and Kyle Korver.
This doesn’t quite correlate, because in 2010 the Bulls had both Derrick Rose and Joakim Noah under 25 years of age and making rookie-scale contracts. Also, they didn’t actually get the big free agents, and even their backup-plan FAs either were let go soon-after or in Boozer’s case had to be amnestied. Plus you could argue that the success of said ‘plan’ had a lot to do with Tom Thibodeau, and another home-run coaching hire doesn’t seem likely soon.
Additionally as part of a post-deadline PR tour, Gar himself both spoke to Bulls.com and WSCR The Score. The Athletic’s Stephen Noh had fantastic recaps here:
- The Bulls’ free agency plan — will it work?
- What’s the Score? Gar Forman continues defending record on radio shows
Taking them in altogether is fairly demoralizing.
Before even getting into said ‘plan’, there’s a fundamental disconnect between management and fans in their current job performance. If we’re looking to be fair, both Forman and Paxson deserve to immediately fire themselves. But they not only have a different perspective as enjoying ultimate job security, they:
- Believe fans are unnecessarily impatient
- Refuse to admit any mistakes
- Think the current roster construction is actually working
It’s galling to hear Forman’s complete entrenchment in the way he praises the Rajon Rondo signing and doesn’t acknowledge the draft-day acquisition of Doug McDermott as a failure. Fred’s doing fine. If they can’t admit mistakes, then what hope is there for a better outcome with the next plan?
The reason seems to come back to a fundamental tenet in saying ‘at least we have no bad contracts’. It’s a pretty weird self-ownage that they admit not having enough good players to actually make real money now or in the near future, and better yet they frame it as a positive. But if you get through minutes-long meanderings in Gar format that seems to be the objective.
- ‘crazy’ money is being spent now, best to just stay out of it
- in 2018(!) the cap will stop jumping so much, other teams will have made bad signings the past 2 offeasons, and the Chicago Bulls will be sitting pretty
To reiterate, it’s tough not to get totally disheartened by this. There’s no mention of drafting better (or getting better draft picks), having better NBA talent evaluation, being more proactive instead of reactive, or firing themselves. No reticence over the fact that they’ve tried and failed to be major players in Free Agency before. John Paxson too has seemed to have totally flip his opinion on the value of free agency, as back on Christmas he called cap space hoarding ‘not a plan’. And no acknowledgement that while ‘using your cap space to get more assets’ is a novel idea...why didn’t they do that last summer instead of signing Rondo and Wade? The answer is they can’t acknowledge that because it’d imply mistakes, and they don’t actually have any shame.
And the elephant in the room is that the one good thing GarPax have left and the guy propping up this charade of ‘competitiveness’, Jimmy Butler. Paxson refused to say they’ll build ‘around’ Butler (said ‘with’...) though Forman did use the ‘build around’ terminology in one of these appearances. However, Butler will be just short of 29 years old in the summer of 2018, entering a potential walk year.
I’ve read discouragement that GarPax side-stepped questions over the merits of ‘tanking’, but to me their mindset is actually worse. They can’t figure a way out of their own mess that isn’t tanking. Because this plan, such that it is (it’s garbage) doesn’t look like it includes Jimmy Butler, and will instead mean high draft picks. Selections so high they feel confidence in they can’t screw it up and get players that they won’t have to give a big contract for a while. The long, long, while that they stay in their jobs.