In some respects I don’t even know where to begin with the latest GarPax ass-covering convention. More like a de-press conference, am I right? While it was all expected, it was still as galling as ever.
In one respect, they did change things up a bit in that they didn’t try to spin as much of the current season as a success. Was definitely expecting mention of how they were above .500 and in the playoffs for the whatever time in however many years, or their record against Cleveland. There wasn’t that, though we did have to hear multiple times how they won 7-of-10 to end the season and Paxson say ‘they may still be playing’ if Rajon Rondo didn’t get hurt.
And maybe it’s just as bad that instead of hearing things are fine and they’re staying the course we get...things are not fine but we’re staying the course.
You can watch the whole thing again here (and even a full transcript has emerged!), but here are some ‘highlights’ of hypocrisy and cowardice I wanted to mention (outside of Jimmy Butler talk, that’s a whole ‘nother topic):
Say something, anything nice about Fred Hoiberg
Paxson was way more effusive in praise for Rajon Rondo (the guy they fined twice this season for insubordination) than their hand-picked head coach. This was a question that should’ve been easy to answer, yet:
Q: Specifically with regards to Fred, what have you seen in the last two years to lead you to believe he is the right long-term fit to coach this team?
PAXSON: We made a commitment to Fred. And like when Dave asked the question about whether we’ve given him (the right roster), maybe we haven’t.
I will point to you guys were there when Dwyane left the other day and Dwyane said some positive things about Fred, that he saw growth in Fred. I mentioned to you last year that I view young coaches in this league as like young players. They have to develop and grow, too.
So he hasn’t seen anything, but Dwyane Wade sure had nice thoughts about him, and well: Fred’s under contract.
Paxson later said the following about an NBA head coach: “I think Fred’s challenge this offseason is to find ways to be a better leader”.
There was a lot of truly head-scratching stuff when it came to Hoiberg, someone who we know Gar Forman was obscenely high on, but Paxson has yet to ever really endorse. Cody Westerlund of CBSChicago has a nice column detailing all the binds GarPax have self-admittedly put their coach in.
They mentioned repeatedly that it was important for their younger players to have more defined roles, but yet they also prioritize winning and ‘being competitive’ to where playing these young players would damage that effort (because they’re bad).
And how, exactly, is Hoiberg supposed to give the young guys better roles they’re very likely going to see their over-30 starting backcourt back? Heck, it sounds like the whole team is coming back. While Hoiberg undoubtedly made awful (fire-able, to be honest) moves when it came to the rotation, it was usually swapping out one of GarPax’s prized young players for another, or benching Rajon Rondo, a player who they’ve been conned into thinking is awesome.
Nobody knows who’s in charge
This was asked several times in the conference: exactly how does Bulls decision-making work? It’s likely kept mysterious so that they can deflect blame from a single person. And we certainly didn’t get any more clarity after this press conference.
Paxson denied reports of any change in influence among the decision-makers, including more of a voice for his brother. He tried to maintain that nothing has changed in his vice president role versus Gar’s one as GM. Gar talks to agents, which Paxson hates. Paxson deals with the culture, whatever that means (what is Bulls culture, right now?).
When asked plainly who gets final say, Pax said he does and reports to the Reinsdorfs. Gar followed by saying he reports to Pax...and also the Reinsdorfs.
Flexible, yet hamstrung
This may have been the most glaring incongruity. For one thing the Bulls love to boast about how they’re continually flexible and don’t throw around that ‘stupid money’. Here’s Paxson:
Other teams last year dove into the market when the spike hit and signed guys to four-year deals. We’ve not done that. We feel pretty good that we haven’t hamstrung ourselves to any long-term veteran deals. And that will give us an opportunity moving forward.
then later when asked why there’s no change, Paxson again:
We’ve got a lot of guys under contract currently. The landscape is such that to make significant change right now will be difficult.
From that perspective, to think that we could just up and massively move pieces and parts is not realistic. It’s not. We have guys signed to contracts.
Gotta have our guys in the building
Like, I don’t even know what the hell Pax was getting on with this:
And another thing I’ll say about Niko is that it’s a dilemma around the league, but international players, a lot of times they spend the summer around their national team. And Niko had a great experience doing that last year, winning the bronze medal. But in reality, from our seat, he lost some time in the weight room with us, lost some time on the floor with our coaches.
and with Cameron Payne:
Cameron understands what’s expected of him this offseason. We laid it out very clearly to him. He’s a guy who really hasn’t played much in two years. He has to get himself in shape. It’s the only way he can show us what he has as a player. That’s not to put pressure on him because we think the kid has some ability.
With both of Payne and Niko it was mentioned how they need more defined roles from Fred (like I said, they talked about this a lot), the coach they’re committed to despite not doing anything they want. There was mention of Jimmy Butler as an example of a young player improving, but even he admitted that was a special case but didn’t admit that maybe Tom Thibodeau had something to do with it.
At several points in the press conference there was a reiteration that this past season has been a total waste of time, as they had all ‘these young players under contract’ and over the course of an entire season...didn’t learn enough about them, and need more time. But Paxson kept insisting having ‘defined roles’ will change everything.
Don’t want to bore you with the details, as I don’t understand them myself
And when it comes to Niko, isn’t it an issue that he’s a restricted free agent that’s likely to command a (gasp) 4-year contract? I think he’s as good as gone for that very reason.
And in that line of thinking, Gar went into his grand pile of dogshit that’s the 2018 plan. And he couldn’t even articulate it:
I know a lot of fans don’t want to talk about cap and cap situations and spikes and where we’re at in managing that. But I do think we’re setting ourselves up from the cap standpoint to take advantage of opportunities, whether those opportunities are this summer or next year or when they come about. That’s part of our job, is to set ourselves up in order to do stuff.
THIS WAS PUT ON THE OFFICIAL CHICAGO BULLS TWITTER ACCOUNT #SEERED #THATSBULL
Gar: "We're setting ourselves up from a cap perspective to take advantage of opportunities."— Chicago Bulls (@chicagobulls) May 3, 2017
But, remember, Gar’s boss (we think?) sat right next to him and said it’ll be too hard to make real changes this year due to the guys already under contract. But in 2018 when Jimmy Butler is months from 30 years old and entering a walk year, then it’ll be the time to strike. Well not really ‘strike’, but maybe take advantage of an opportunity.
Downhill, uphill, and twirling towards freedom
Keep in mind Paxson said this in a conversation about known stud lead guards Cameron Payne and Michael Carter-Williams:
That’s as important a position in our game today as any, guys who can play downhill and with speed and quickness. During the playoffs right now, look at what Isaiah Thomas did last night—those guys who can play quick and downhill at the point guard with the rules now where you can’t touch a guy on the perimeter. We’re trying to find that type of thing.
And of course earlier admitted that his team lacked shooting.
It’s not the size of your staff that matters...
There were several good questions about the Bulls scouting and development processes. Because this whole charade seemed to have them conceptualize they’ve made no mistakes in talent acquisition, and that the roster or coaching wasn’t going to change, but they were going to get better...just because. GarPax would state a desire to look over their player development and coaching staff, but then would also insist it was really important for their young players to commit to working with that same group over the summer.
And then this pretty glaring admission from Paxson about the 3rd most valuable franchise in the league:
we feel we have a good staff, we have a very small staff. We use all our resources. So we will continue to do so.
And Gar Forman when pressed on his misfires in the draft:
I’ve got a lot of confidence on how we go about our scouting process and our veteran scouting staff, and we all know with drafts there’s going to be some hits and some misses, but we feel good about some of these young guys that are on our roster
So maybe I was wrong, they did kinda say everything was actually fine.
So all and all, it was another moment to solidify that ownership needs to fire these tools already.