John Paxson, the Bulls’ vice president for life, and Gar Forman, their general manager in perpetuity, have the kind of job security usually reserved for British royalty.
Players don’t have peace of mind when it comes to continued employment. Coaches don’t, either. Somehow, though, these two guys do. What a country.
It’s hard to believe anyone could look at the Bulls’ muddle and think it’s a slam dunk that both Paxson and Forman would be back next season. But then you remember there’s only one ‘‘anyone’’ who matters in this case. Bulls chairman Jerry Reinsdorf, also the White Sox’ chairman, would be loyal to a potato if it were a former Bulls potato or a former Sox potato. Paxson is a former Bull, and Forman does his bidding. Spud and his bud.
According to a report Wednesday, Paxson and Forman would be back next season, regardless of whether the Bulls make the playoffs this season. Really? The team is .500, the veterans have been squabbling among themselves, few of the young players are doing anything that would point to a glorious future and this is reason to keep the same hands on the tiller?
That it’s no surprise Gar-Pax will return is the biggest indictment there can be of this organization.
It’s hard to look forward and see a plan that would explain the retention of either. The Bulls likely will end up with a middle-of-the-pack first-round draft choice in 2017 to go with all the other middling players on their roster. If you see big-time free agents lining up to sign with the Bulls in the offseason, your eyesight is better than mine. Besides money, what reason would anyone have for wanting to join a boring team on the court and a soap opera off it?
Drama is the Bulls’ defining characteristic and has been for the last several years. Is there another franchise that has had as much whining and behind-the-scenes catfighting as this one? The Bulls have looked more like a bunch of actors repairing in a snit to their respective trailers than a basketball team. And I’d like to apologize to actors in trailers everywhere. They’re probably more mature than this. So are the trailers.
And now Jimmy Butler is talking about wanting 35-year-old Dwyane Wade to stay with the team beyond next season and hoping 32-year-old Carmelo Anthony will be added to the roster. This comes after a report last month that the Bulls are interested in 32-year-old Chris Bosh. Does Bob Cousy still want to play?
It’s not that Paxson and Forman have been awful; it’s that the time arrived a year or two ago for the franchise to move on from their mediocrity. Their decision to team Wade and Rajon Rondo with Butler was terrible at the conception stage and worse in the flesh. Anyone who knows basketball or psychology knew this wasn’t going to work.
But it was an oh-so-apropos move for this team, a team stuck in NBA hell. Get an aging future Hall of Famer (Wade) and an infamous antagonist (Rondo), drop them onto the court with the needy Butler, watch the United Center remain filled with warm bodies and see the losses add up as quickly as the victories. Tearing the roster up was the answer if future success was the goal, but that wasn’t going to happen, not with the Sox already taking that approach. Reinsdorf wasn’t going to oversee two franchises whose most notable attribute was empty seats.
And so we have this, a whole lot of nothing. Fans don’t seem to be holding the Bulls responsible for this mess. If they were, they wouldn’t continue to go to the games. They wouldn’t be content with watching the fumes of Wade’s game or the inconsistency of Doug McDermott and Nikola Mirotic.
They would have been in full protest mode when Reinsdorf canned highly successful coach Tom Thibodeau after the 2014-15 season and then took a shot at him in a statement:
‘‘While the head of each department of the organization must be free to make final decisions regarding his department, there must be free and open interdepartmental discussion and consideration of everyone’s ideas and opinions. These internal discussions must not be considered an invasion of turf and must remain private. Teams that consistently perform at the highest levels are able to come together and be unified across the organization — staff, players, coaches, management and ownership. When everyone is on the same page, trust develops and teams can grow and succeed together. Unfortunately, there has been a departure from this culture.’’
How has the return to that culture worked out? Not so well. There’s no doubt Thibodeau could be difficult. But you know what wasn’t difficult? Watching winning basketball.
Follow me on Twitter @MorrisseyCST.
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