Bulls-hate brings out strange bedfellows, as I found myself sharing sheets with one Steve Rosenbloom after Wednesday’s press conference:
When asked about Butler, Bulls executive vice president John Paxson didn’t say they planned to build around Butler. Paxson didn’t even say they’d build with him.
While praising Butler as the Bulls’ best player with one of the best work ethics in the league, Paxson said, “You always have to keep things open.’’
Paxson said the Bulls would love to “go out and get another superstar player to put with him, but with the salaries we have, it’s difficult to manage.’’
If you can find any kind of commitment there, then I need a better decoder ring.
If you can get over.
There’s more at the article about how Paxson seemed to go out of his way to praise Rajon Rondo and even Nikola Mirotic at a level more convincing than with his only star player.
In what was mostly nonsense, Paxson did show his hand a bit with this eye-popping answer to a ‘build around Jimmy’ question:
Most interesting answer from the GarPax presser for me. On why they won't choose a path (putting shooters around Butler vs total rebuild) pic.twitter.com/d3VOZCCqVc— Stephen Noh (@StephNoh) May 3, 2017
Not so much the first part of the answer, which was typical Paxson whining over how hard his job is (seriously, just quit already you loser), but in saying that Jimmy Butler doesn’t fit Fred’s system of ‘playing with pace’.
The obvious first reaction is: screw Fred and his system, this is a coach that you don’t even think is any good, and you’re going to choose him over your superstar player?
But Paxson followed up with multiple radio interviews on Wednesday to do some sort of damage control, both in taking back criticism of Hoiberg but also trying to reinforce that they don’t actually want to trade Butler. Neither sounded convincing (first impressions matter) and he instead showed further that he’s focused on forcing Jimmy into a system instead of building around the player.
We talk about playing with pace and push. I personally don't think Jimmy should be 100 percent point guard where he's bringing the ball up the floor," Paxson said on The Score. "If we can get playing with pace more consistently, I'd love to see Jimmy use his athleticism out on the wing, running ahead of the ball where we could throw it ahead to him. He might get two more easy baskets a game, get to the foul line a few more times.
Paxson also again clarified Butler's fit in Hoiberg's system again. Told @thekapman he wants Butler on wing alongside downhill PG.— K.C. Johnson (@KCJHoop) May 4, 2017
Ah yes, the ‘downhill’ PG, a common Pax refrain this week. Not only apparently does a 30+ year old bum-legged Rajon Rondo fit that mold, but remember Paxson said this regarding Michael Carter-Williams:
Early in the year, we made a deal and took a flyer on Michael Carter-Williams. Gar and I talk about this all the time. That’s as important a position in our game today as any, guys who can play downhill and with speed and quickness.
(I think Cameron Payne is less ‘downhill’ and more of a ‘garbage-pile’ PG)
So these are the types that Paxson thinks works with Butler best. Instead of Let Jimmy be Harden, it’s let Jimmy be Trevor Ariza? It’d be one thing if they had a stud PG on the roster to build around, but Pax himself was in despair (quittttttt. just quit! The job is hard!) over an inability to acquire top-end talent soon, and we’ve seen what their pro scouting has produced in trying to acquire role players in this mold.
No, the Bulls need shooters around Butler. GarPax fluffed their amazing end-of-season run and 2 playoff games, but incorrectly ascribed all that success to Rondo’s ‘downhill’-ness, and not that Dwyane Wade was hurt and they put more shooters on the floor with Rondo himself hitting half of his threes. With Butler, surrounding him with shooters has always worked. They did cite Niko’s performance with Butler in the press conference, so maybe there’s some hope that they’re paying attention (Niko’s gonna walk, I still maintain). But assuming Dwyane Wade returns and that they want Rondo to do the same, it again points to them not knowing what they have. Butler isn’t just a guy with ‘great professionalism’, he had a remarkable season in spite of what was put around him, not because of it. The only reason Fred Hoiberg’s record looks decent and the coveted young players are in a competitive situation is because of Butler. Not GarPax and Fred’s system.
So it begs the question of whether Paxson just is never buying in to Jimmy-ball and wants to trade him. If you’re a fan of simply ‘choosing a direction’ and think that Paxson is more of a visionary than Gar, then that’d be encouraging. But trading Butler is a bad direction, and judging by past deals GarPax aren’t the types to get proper value.
If you want Jimmy to stay, have hope in that Paxson’s cowardice perhaps outweighs his idiocy. Like what was reported at the trade deadline, the Bulls don’t want to bottom out in a Butler trade and look to instead want competitive pieces along with a draft pick. As you can hear with the first part of Paxson’s answer above and several times throughout Tuesday, they do not want to get too bad and too young, because they have no confidence in themselves to build a good team ‘from scratch’ again and will instead be out of the playoffs for the next 10 years.
You could instead want a Butler trade because you figure Paxson is showing he doesn’t know what he has and will waste yet another year of Butler’s prime. They openly admitted that last season was a complete waste, and also telegraphed bringing pretty much the whole team back again with the only change being they’ll try and influence Fred’s rotations more for ‘defined roles’. But if their plan includes the dynamic duo of Fred Hoiberg and Rajon Rondo leading the team and taking a package for Butler that they think keeps them competitive, say favoring Jae Crowder and Marcus Smart in return instead of more picks...they’ll wind up being terrible anyway. Jimmy Butler has been that good, they just don’t realize it.