The Bulls quickly lost any fleeting goodwill they gained in the Otto Porter trade by opening their mouths.
The trade, given the context of the team’s current standing, was defensible. Even if said context allowing for this move to make sense just pointed towards more reasons why they should be fired, in a vacuum (sucking out the life of every Bulls fan) it’s ‘fine’.
But then John Paxson and Gar Forman spoke to the media. And the reporters there did great work in questioning GarPax on their many failures and any changes they will make due to them. The whole thing is linked below, but sorry to spoil the ending: the answer is ‘nah’: they offered no introspection or analysis suggesting anything was even wrong, let alone something that required change in process or management.
Gar Forman and John Paxson meet the media after the trade deadline https://t.co/rtFbwMLGJi— Bulls Talk (@NBCSBulls) February 7, 2019
Later in the afternoon, Paxson - who would up dominating the presser quickly after giving the first answer to Gar - went on the Bulls radio flagship 670 The Score and was questioned further by hosts Danny Parkins and Dan McNeil.
It’s a lot of GarPax for one sitting, so without further ado...
The top infuriating things things said by Bulls brass on Thursday
in no particular order:
John Paxson had a public meltdown over his inability to sign stars
It was building up throughout the Parkins and McNeil interview, where they were asking Paxson about how he and the team are perceived, and why it made them effectively opt out of signing free agents this summer.
Paxson both said that perception doesn’t matter (oh, no...) AND that he doesn’t believe that perception actually exists. But if it did exist, that it was actually ‘misinformation’ that was driving it and that’s our fault not theirs.
Just listen to this, at one point he called media availability “an interrogation”! He made weird comparisons to the Chicago Bears! This is the lead basketball decision-maker for the franchise!
(video above, direct link here)
If Parkins wanted to troll here, he had every right to instruct Paxson to ‘be specific about this misinformation’ since Pax was going with that tactic constantly throughout the interview. When being confronted simply with “well, Anthony Davis?”, Paxson said he basically didn’t believe it was due to the franchise.
Paxson then self-owned by saying they can’t even get in the room, let alone be turned down:
“Until you get an opportunity to get in front of people then how do you know how they feel about you?”
(Yet another weird example of Paxson wanting to be told to his face he sucks)
Paxson further got up in arms when referencing a fan protest (I thought he didn’t pay attention to this stuff?), and when asked about his Christmas day interview where he suggested this would be his last rebuild if it didn’t work , he not only said that wasn’t true but used this as an example of the media running with things that he meant tongue-in-cheek. There was a bit in there about “maybe it’s true” but overall, nope: we don’t even have that glimmer of hope that there will be actual accountability from ownership, Pax was just jokin’ around.
My Coach, My Philosophy - is Jim friggin’ Boylen
Maybe the worst ‘news’ of the day was Paxson’s continued backing of meatslab-with-a-whistle-lanyard Jim Boylen as a non-interim head coach.
When you’re in it every day with someone, you find out who they are. And one thing we’re really pleased about and we talk to Jim about this because we’re such a young team, is just the teaching component of the game to our guys consistently every day. That first week with the whole Boston game (a 56-point loss) and that was a bad way to start, but when you’re in it with him every day you see his passion, his commitment, and the care he has for his players and our organization. So we feel he’s doing the right things. He’s trying to get our guys to understand what being a professional is, and to play hard every night and practice hard every day. So we’re doing fine with Jim. Jim’s been great in terms of communicating every single day. We’re on a good page there.
A question I have is whether ‘teaching’ really is the most important thing here for the HEAD coach, and if so why they have so little in terms of assistant coaches and veterans on the roster. They mentioned the need this summer to use free agency to add ‘the right veterans’, yet also said that was important last summer and they didn’t but that wasn’t a mistake (they did concede it was ‘a challenge’).
Later on the radio interview he was followed up with in particular about ‘that whole Boston game’, and bristled (!) at the terminology that it was a ‘near mutiny’. And no he didn’t say “there was no ‘near’, it was a mutiny” he instead diminished it as “just a little miscommunication”.
It got heated further when asked about the players contacting the union, as Paxson was yelling FAKE NEWS (not literally, but still ugh) because “we were told by the league they were never contacted by the union”. That’s not the same thing as the players contacting the union!
In the press conference Paxson answered this when it came to Zach LaVine calling out Boylen.
“I’m not going to get into day-to-day personal things,” Paxson said. “I know Zach is an incredibly talented player. Jim is an incredibly competitive coach and person. We need Zach. He’s got a unique ability to score. Coach-player relationship can be difficult on any level. I played for the greatest coach of all time, and sometimes relationships with players for him were not always smooth. That’s not to say there’s anything going on with Zach and Jim.
So yet again: this doesn’t matter, and actually it isn’t even real.
And it’s one thing to ask for Paxson to trash his hand-picked coach, but how about simply saying that things haven’t gone well, and you’re evaluating? He had no problem saying that when it came to Kris Dunn. But Boylen is apparently way safer, and Paxson confirmed the plan as it stands now is for Boylen to be coaching the Bulls next season. Luckily for us Paxson is a liar and changes his plans all the time?
Paxson defended the coaching instability and his “number of rebuilds” in general in the radio hit, not realizing that in the cases he cited - like other Central Division teams having higher coaching turnover(?)- nearly all other franchises typically have more than zero regime changes over 16 years when not competing for championships.
Essentially, all Paxson has when he’s defending Boylen is saying that Boylen’s doing stuff that we can’t see. Because even he admits that it’s not carrying over to games and the actual results fans have to analyze are all poor.
He made a point to go with this statement:
We can’t control perception. I’ll say this again: The only people who really know are those of us in the building
The Jabari Parker signing wasn’t a mistake, it actually turned out well
This was expected, where Gar Forman said that signing Jabari Parker actually ‘worked out well for us’ because they could use the expiring contract to get Porter.
Obviously horseshit rationalizing, but even worse was their quick dismissal of the signing being a mistake. It was short term, a “roll of the dice”, and sometimes it doesn’t work out.
They were rightly questioned (by Joe Cowley) as to their scouting process when it came to determining Parker’s fit on the roster, and GarPax both took this totally normally.... Kidding, they viewed it as a personal attack on their old-ass (sorry, ‘veteran’) scouting team and owned it as Gar and Pax’s decision, ‘their scouting process’ is fine. What?
They still have no idea how to value 2nd round picks
I mean, this hypocrisy is as clear as day:
Gar Forman mentioned the Justin Holliday trade netting two 2nd round picks from Memphis:— Josh Frydman (@Josh_Frydman) February 7, 2019
"When you are drafting in 30s our feeling is you have an opportunity to get a player who’s going to be a piece and help you."
Bulls sold 38th overall pick Jordan Bell for $3.5 Mil in 2017.
Then later they were questioned (this time by Darnell Mayberry) about why they were the ones sending a 2nd round pick in this Porter trade even though they were helping the Wizards out of the luxury tax (and removing a ton of future money too).
Of course Paxson led with “it’s very easy to sit there and criticize” and Gar Forman literally asked for examples of teams getting picks for taking on money - whoa boy- and then talked out both sides of his mouth saying that the Wizards needed to shed money but they also had to send them a pick to help them shed money elsewhere. And then whatever this means:
“We do things that if we feel we have to make a deal or want to make a deal and that’s what it takes, we’re going to do it. And that’s what we did yesterday.”
Paxson has a new job circumstance to whine about: the buyout market
Yes, the executive who can’t tell you fast enough how difficult (and difficult to understand) everything is, now took a shot at the NBA’s buyout market:
“I know there’s a lot of talk and rumor around the league about buyouts,” Paxson said. ”We have not spoken about that. Internally as an organization, the discussions we have had center around the whole buyout process in general, and in a lot of ways, it hurts the trade market when there’s all this belief that guys are going to be bought out. I certainly think it hurt us in this case. So we are not committed to anything right now.
When pressed by KC Johnson about Robin Lopez in particular being a ‘good soldier’ while the ultra-competitor was instructing his team to lose games, Paxson said ‘players should honor their contracts’.
Gar Forman - dynamic informed executive
I can’t believe this guy can’t help convince NBA stars to play for his team:
My favorite part of the presser was when Gar went into a young/productive/efficient talking points feedback loop. pic.twitter.com/adOjvW9KwW— Stephen Noh (@StephNoh) February 7, 2019
But ok maybe he’s more of a details man....
Look how comfortable the Bulls are talking about 'the analytics' pic.twitter.com/31dhsF7YMy— BlogABull.com (@BullsBlogger) February 8, 2019
Ok but maybe he at least empathizes with his customers in a reasonable way
Gar: "People want instant gratification."#Bulls fans have been awfully patient. Such silliness.— Silvy (@WaddleandSilvy) February 7, 2019
Being so insular fuels their own wrong ‘perception’
This is really important - the Bulls can’t self-scout or realize where they stand in the league. They cited themselves as being ‘in the beginning of their rebuild’ and not being ready yet - but didn’t they go into this season thinking they would be?
They did mention “the optimism” they had before the injuries early in the year. But the outside said they weren’t actually going to be good - remember the Vegas line?
So what happened according to Paxson?
“This year it’s been more painful than we thought, given when we started healthy and excited on Day 1.”
“Those things have changed over time. And when our guys have been together, candidly, we probably haven’t played at the level you would hope. But with that said, over the last two to three weeks, we’re seeing some signs. We’re not winning games, but we’re seeing signs of offensive improvement, which is good.”
So instead of trying to reflect in maybe thinking their internal analysis was wrong, there was somehow nothing wrong with their process yet they didn’t fail in execution to making this a competitive team that great players would want to be on.
Yet the friggin’ Knicks could do this.
New York will be in the game this summer, I’m sure. We are not at that stage. Is it a black eye? No. I don’t consider it. That’s our aspiration.
Aspire to be the Knicks!
Finally, Paxson had a very telling line in the radio interview, where he simply stated something very clear about his operating philosophy:
“I try very hard not to look back”
That pretty much says it all. There won’t be a change because nothing is wrong, and nothing is wrong because they don’t know it’s wrong. Everyone else is misinformed, only John Paxson and Gar Forman know the truth.