Cristiano Felicio makes it easy, and Jim Paxson could be on the move

Cristiano Felicio wasn’t going to make it difficult for the Bulls.

He wasn’t going to hear from other teams and get general manager Gar Forman into a bidding war.

“As soon as I got here after my first year, my drive has been to stay with the Bulls,’’ Felicio said during a teleconference Thursday. “They were the first ones to talk to me when I was a free agent. They gave me a good offer. I wanted to stay with the Bulls.’’

And just like that, the rebuilding Bulls locked up their backup center for four years and $32 million.

“For sure, [the Bulls are] going in a new direction,’’ Felicio said. “We have a lot of young guys. Guys who are hard workers. I know a few of them from my last few years here. I’m sure it’s going in a great direction. A lot of people aren’t putting faith in us, but we’ll keep working, and when we start, I’m sure we’ll have a pretty good season.’’

It’s a nice thought, but it isn’t exactly what the Bulls’ front office has in mind. The organization’s goal for the upcoming season is to have more lottery balls than any other team in the league.

Felicio could play a bigger role in that scenario than he realizes, especially if center Robin Lopez and his very friendly contract are traded by the February deadline, possibly pushing him into a starting role.

Discovered during the 2015 Summer League season, the 6-9 Brazilian has improved greatly the last two seasons, going from an unknown raw commodity to a serviceable rotation player.

He played in 31 games and started four as a rookie. Then last season, he played in 66 games, averaging 15.8 minutes, 4.8 points and 4.7 rebounds.

He doesn’t have the greatest hands, but Felicio has focused on improving that facet of his game.

Felicio also didn’t sound overly concerned about his role in 2017-18.

“They haven’t told me anything yet,’’ Felicio said. “But whatever they tell me my role is going to be, I’m going to try to do my best.’’

NOTE: Bulls consultant Jim Paxson, who has been taking on more duties recently, is drawing interest from several organizations, a league source said.

The older brother of vice president of basketball operations John Paxson has experience as a general manager and might not want to wait for a substantial opening in the Bulls’ front office, especially if that involves hanging around to see how Gar Forman’s future with the organization plays out.

Follow me on Twitter @suntimes_hoops.

Email: jcowley@suntimes.com

RELATED STORIES

PODCAST: What to watch as Bulls’ rebuild kicks off in Summer League

Bulls sign first-round pick Lauri Markkanen as Summer League nears