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What does NBA’s shutdown mean for Bulls’ changes?

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everything is in limbo

Los Angeles Lakers v Chicago Bulls Photo by Jeff Haynes/NBAE via Getty Images

It has now been a week since the NBA suspended its season following Rudy Gobert’s positive coronavirus test. Six other players have tested positive so far, including four Nets players, one of which was Kevin Durant. The Bulls played the Nets on March 8, and K.C. Johnson of NBC Sports Chicago reports the team is under quarantine until March 22. No members of the traveling party are symptomatic.

While the NBA would like to resume the 2019-20 season, it’s impossible to know right now if that will be possible. There have been talks about resuming in June and playing into August, but that’s probably a best-case scenario.

While the current focus is on the health and safety of the Bulls and everybody else across the world, we can still talk about the basketball aspect of the organization. The Bulls were a wretched 22-43 going into the hiatus and likely ticketed for fewer than 30 wins given the remaining schedule. They were a massive disappointment, with reported changes coming in the front office and likely at head coach.

But what now?

With everything in limbo, it seems like the Bulls are going to wait for the season to either resume and finish or be canceled before making any moves, which isn’t all that surprising given the optics of firings now wouldn’t be great (though Bulls fans would still rejoice). Joe Cowley of the Chicago Sun-Times said last week that this hiatus would give Michael Reinsdorf more time in his quest to revamp the front office:

If there is a positive in this sad situation as far as Bulls president Michael Reinsdorf is concerned, it gives him time to continue developing a plan for a revamped front office.

The Bulls are in the early stages of adding a new face — or faces — in management. There has been some progress in that search, but it remains in the fact-finding stages.

Consequently, there’s a lot of uncertainty with regard to what vice president of basketball operations John Paxson’s role will be, as well as the eventual fate of Boylen.

It seemed as if Reinsdorf was running out of time to start bringing in candidates, especially during a busy end-of-the-season push for many teams. A leaguewide stoppage, however, could free up the Bulls to get even more invested in the process.

The “running out of time” line is odd, but perhaps this extra time will actually help management.

Cowley also dropped in a nugget saying Scottie Pippen is no longer a team ambassador, which is no surprise given Pip said during All-Star Weekend he could barely name anybody on the team.

Cowley then reiterated the delayed timeline in a complete evisceration of GM Gar Forman on Wednesday:

The NBA Executive of the Year for the 2011 season has been reduced to a lead scout. Hidden from media interactions for months, with his actual job duties more mystery than transparency.

Duties that will be coming to an end once the coronavirus shutdown is lifted off the league, and Bulls COO Michael Reinsdorf can get back to the business of restructuring his front office in what is expected to be the biggest overhaul in franchise history.

The Sun-Times was the first to break the story of Reinsdorf’s plans over the All-Star weekend, and while sources have told the newspaper as of last week that there was still some uncertainty of what role current vice president of basketball operations John Paxson will play in all of this, Forman will have absolutely no seat at the decision-making table, only keeping the GM title warm for his successor.

There have been reports saying Forman might accept a demotion to lead scout or some other title, but Cowley is now suggesting he might be a goner entirely.

This hit piece also details Forman’s laundry list of issues within the organization. There’s a rehashing of the issues with Tom Thibodeau and Jimmy Butler. There’s talk about constant paranoia, confiscation of employee phones/computers and the Randy Brown “spying” incident. There’s a mention of former players being upset at how Forman treated them when they returned to honor Luol Deng in November.

There are also bits about John Paxson, who gets absolved of much of the blame here:

While Thibodeau had his obvious disagreements with Paxson, both knew where they stood with each other. Forman, however, played both sides of the fence, telling Thibodeau one thing, but bad-mouthing the coach to the players.

Even Paxson grew distrustful of Forman after he heard how Forman would go on these scouting trips and blame organizational mistakes on Paxson, doing everything he could to wipe the weapon clean of his fingerprints. The Sun-Times reported that story several times.

So how Forman stay employed?

Paxson, Thibodeau, and the players all knew one very important thing at the end of the day: As long as Forman had chairman Jerry Reinsdorf in his corner he was a made man. Untouchable even to Paxson.

Forman deserves to lose his job at this point, no doubt, but to paint Paxson in this light and fail to bring up his own issues is off-base, especially given the epic Jim Boylen failure. In a perfect world Pax is also leaving the organization, but as of now it looks like he’ll be sticking around in some capacity, though it’s unclear just what he’ll be doing.

As for Boylen, it’s safe to assume he’s not going anywhere until the front-office changes are made. Jimbo should be shown the door once that happens, leading to a real-life coaching search for the first time in forever.