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John Paxson is confident in the team’s direction, but should we be confident in him?

odd time for a victory lap

Utah Jazz v Chicago Bulls
we need new Paxson pictures damnit
Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

John Paxson gave a lengthy interview to newly-partnered flagship station WSCR on Thursday. I will give credit to the Bulls Org. here for at least being more outwardly-facing and daring to engage the fanbase lately. It was addressed in the interview by Paxson that indeed management made the change to have him be the more visible presence, though decisions are still made via consensus between him and Gar Forman.

Paxson, though more aesthetically pleasing than Forman, still showed as he has all season to be way too sensitive to criticism and annoyed by valid skepticism. Credit to WSCR host Jason Goff for pinning Paxson down (and not backing up when Pax outrageously whined “it’s your job to point out bad things we do good things too”) on getting someone who works for the Bulls to even admit a single mistake. I heard it! It was in reference to the Three Alphas, which Paxson still hedged as not being a ‘long-term mistake’ but a mistake all the same. That admission was at the end of the interview, a lot prior had been the usual: that was the path then this is the new path, no need for self-reflection, only bad thing that we did was Derrick Rose getting hurt no Bulls fault there, etc.

Paxson refused to engage the idea that there’s deserved questions over having the same management for 15 years and expecting different results. Instead indicating that it’s going to be a long....long...time where they’re still here following this PATH.

“We’ve got the three kids — Kris Dunn, Zach (LaVine), Lauri Markkanen — who are starters in this league. We believe over the next few years, they’ll become high-level starters, hopefully, maybe an All-Star player or two in that group. I think this year we’ve learned that Denzel Valentine, Bobby Portis are good rotational players that can help a team become successful. We will have draft picks going out. We will have cap room to spend. We will spend it the right way. We’re not going to go out and start throwing money out 32-, 34-year-old players. We’re going to be smart and conscientious about that. I like our future. I think it’s bright, and we’re going to be patient with this process.

Goff and co-host Dan Bernstein resisted the urge (or forgot) to make a joke about Ben Wallace. That was an extremely long time ago, but that’s kind of the point.

Some other notes from this interview, relayed through rolled eyes but still informative:

  • Regarding the rest of the management team, Gar is out on the road more scouting, and Doug Collins is more of a sounding board than decision-influencer, who also helps out the coaching staff. Paxson gave credit to that staff and specifically Fred Hoiberg for the job done this year. Though interestingly (to spread blame?) Paxson said that Hoiberg was part of bringing in players for his first two seasons as well.
  • Cited both ‘pace/space’ offense and an analytics department. Which is progress, but still came across as too little too late. He referenced the hand-checking rules which went in place over a decade ago.
  • Didn’t take the bait about the tank-tacular lineup decisions for the rest of the season, continued to say that it was more about player development than self-sabotage. Insisted that they can only properly evaluate players if they receive ‘meaningful minutes in NBA games’. Several things about this come to mind:
  1. You probably should be able to internally scout without this gift of minutes, and it’d be an advantage to ‘have guys in our building’ .
  2. Will the Bulls have any ‘meaningful minutes’ the rest of this season? They’re throwing out a junk starting lineup (so much for Hoiball with compounding Nwaba with Felicio!) and playing teams that are either tanking themselves or not going to take the Bulls seriously.
  3. Somewhat contradictory that players need all this time for an evaluation, but they already have enough to have assessed quality on the ‘big’ ‘three’ (Dunn has played fewer minutes this season than last), alongside Portis and (most bizarrely) Valentine.
  4. Paxson mentioned wanting to have role players out there with their ‘big’ ‘three’, though like Mark wrote yesterday I can see where gifting minutes to undeserved players can backfire: it’ll hurt on-court play of Dunn/Markkanen/LaVine to be alongside scrubs, and destroying an incentive system for the players to ‘earn’ minutes can’t be good for the #culture.
  5. Of course it’s all possibly posturing and more about the ping-pong balls than anything gained on the court this season.