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Bulls rumors: Are front-office changes actually coming?

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there are rumblings

Philadelphia 76ers v Chicago Bulls Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

For the first time in 32 years, All-Star festivities will return to Chicago this weekend.

Even with so few Bulls representing the franchise during the upcoming frivolities, the entire league converging in Chicago should be the most engrossing story within the city. But when speculative scuttlebutt pointing at a possible front-office change emerges from the ether, all other stories should rightly take a backseat.

Over the last week, the topic of front-office change has circulated through various local media platforms.

K.C. Johnson of NBC Sports Chicago recently speculated at the possibility of a shakeup, suggesting Gar Forman may be set for a title change, leaving open his current role of general manager for a “new voice from outside the organization to run day-to-day duties.”

Mike McGraw of The Daily Herald went one step further in his latest column, reporting that team sources expect Paxson will move into an advisory role, which would require filling his current role of head of basketball operations.

David Kaplan of NBC Sports Chicago and ESPN 1000 has also added fuel to the flame by suggesting a major overhaul could be in the works.

While the reporting on the evolving situation in this Bulls front office varies greatly depending on the messenger, the noise seems to be growing louder.

Now, before we get too excited, we need to consider where this is all coming from. Should we really put much stock in such reports given the status quo has remained in place for so long? Is this news generated by sources linked to the team leaking information, or simply reporters reading the room and understanding an apathetic fan base wanting change, thus pushing fueling narrative from voices outside of the United Center’s walls?

We need to be careful before falling too deep into these rumors. They may be legitimate. They may also never materialize, something that shouldn’t shock any of us given the Reinsdorfs’ admiration for John Paxson and Gar Forman. To that point, let’s not dance on anyone’s grave before we actually knows who lies in it.

On several occasions, Johnson clearly has noted that ownership fully believes in Paxson, as a person and an executive. It’s not possible to picture a scenario where ownership fires Paxson. How can we concoct such thoughts when the last time Paxson actually tried to leave the organization on his own volition, he received a promotion instead!

The Reinsdorfs’ won’t let their boy fall on his sword. He won’t be fired and have his name and reputation dragged through the dirt. Of course, that doesn’t preclude a change of role, moving Paxson into the shadows of the operation. But he will likely still be here in some capacity. And until he’s not, let’s file any rumor of Paxson handing over decision-making responsibilities into the ‘I’ll believe it when I see’ basket.

That, however, is what is needed for true, systemic change. Exiling Forman into a full-time scouting role, only to hire a new general manager who still reports to John Paxson, changes nothing. We know this because Paxson is the one calling the shots at present and, well, things are extremely bad. Fred Hoiberg was canned for letting the players form bad habits, only for Jim Boylen to come in with his meathead mallcop approach, something Paxson approved. Boylen never coached with an interim tag, receiving a contract extension after the Bulls chose to bypass a thorough coaching search. That was Paxson’s decision.

Let me assure you, this blogger, along with this website, cares little for Forman. But if he is the lone scapegoat for this mess, that is some bullshit. It changes nothing, and please don’t be so gullible to think of this possible change as anything more than a veiled public relations stunt.

If what McGraw is suggesting were to prove true, Paxson leaving his post as head of basketball operations, followed closely with Forman exiting too, would be a seismic change given how closely linked both are to the Reinsdorfs. Their professional and personal bond is something that has been reported on numerous occasions, as is ownership’s undying endorsement of GarPax. Who remembers this quote from the owner’s son to K.C. Johnson during his Tribune days?

We really believe they’re doing a great job. I’m confident for our future. It’s so hard to build in the NBA. I talk to other executives. When Jerry West says to me, “I like where you guys are as an organization and what John and Gar are doing,” that sends a message to me.

Reinsdorf muttered these words prior to last season, and they are still firmly etched into the deepest quarters of my mind and soul. As injuries, a coaching change, and pitiful play on the court caused a stir in the media and fan base this time one year ago, Reinsdorf once more reaffirmed his faith in Paxson and Forman.

We believe they’ve done a great job. I know that in this market, with some of our fans and some in the media, they look at it differently. That perplexes me.

This season was supposed to be different. Playoffs were the stated goal. Sitting 10th in the East and currently sporting a record 16 games below .500, the Bulls are unlikely to get there. To no one’s surprise, Paxson and Boylen have been busy selling the injury narrative to anyone who will listen. Will ownership buy it?

If they do, an upheaval of the front office – beyond moving Forman into a scouting role – is unlikely.