Eventually, Jimmy Butler is going to want some answers.
After all, with seven regular-season games left and the Bulls on the brink of jumping back into the Eastern Conference playoffs, now is not the time. But according to a source in Butler’s camp, when the season ends — playoffs or no playoffs — the front office has some explaining to do for its three-time All-Star.
Specifically, what was the plan this season, and what is the direction moving forward?
These aren’t new questions by any means, and the answers to them are more than justified.
General manager Gar Forman and vice president of basketball operations John Paxson have hampered their team’s ability to reach the playoffs this season more than any front office in the NBA. If the Bulls manage to make the postseason, the credit will fall directly on the players and even coach Fred Hoiberg.
Just follow the timeline from this season for proof.
First, there’s the Rajon Rondo drama. He was signed in the summer to be the starting point guard, and Hoiberg gave him the keys to the offense. But that was before Dwyane Wade fell into the Bulls’ lap.
By the time Rondo had the ball pulled from his grip — and after he had tossed a towel in an assistant coach’s face — the front office had started shopping him. When there were no takers, the Bulls embarrassed Rondo by not only taking him out of the starting lineup, but completely out of the rotation.
The focus shifted to the development of young point guards Michael Carter-Williams and Jerian Grant. That was the sell.
The problem was that Carter-Williams and Grant weren’t getting the job done. Slowly, Rondo was given more minutes, working with the second unit, but Gar/Pax weren’t done tinkering with the point-guard spot. They decided they needed another young player to audition.
Enter Cameron Payne and exit Taj Gibson and Doug McDermott in a trade-deadline deal with the Thunder. The explanation given then was that Gibson was a free agent-to-be and the Bulls wanted to get something in return. Plus, McDermott was just wasn’t developing.
A nice smokescreen, but it would only work if Payne was a factor. He has been, but for the Windy City Bulls of the D-League.
So how are the Bulls still afloat at the point-guard position? Because the same Rajon Rondo whose value the front office killed and then couldn’t trade, has proved the obvious by outplaying the three players Gar/Pax wanted to anoint “the point guard of the future.’’ To Hoiberg’s credit, he has played a factor in defying the focus of the youth movement, leaning on Rondo again.
A source indicated that it has put a strain on Hoiberg’s relationship with Forman, but it has helped the second-year coach win the locker room.
Rondo isn’t the only player Gar/Pax wanted out of the rotation and moved to a different franchise, either. Nikola Mirotic was in the same boat, and like Rondo, he has endured the front office’s ever-changing plan, only to ride in on a white horse the last nine games and give the Bulls a legitimate outside scoring threat.
Again, credit Hoiberg for understanding the importance of winning games over winning the public-relations part of a trade.
So how will this end?
That remains to be seen.
But it better involve Gar/Pax sitting down with Butler and finally offering some transparency.
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