While the Bulls’ brass has preached patience during the rebuild, they only have so much of it.
Especially when John Paxson is the vice president of basketball operations and Jerry Reinsdorf is the owner.
Both men privately struggled with what went on last season. A source told the Sun-Times that Reinsdorf was furious with the Bulls’ record, even though he was forewarned about it.
No wonder the team is gambling on bringing Jabari Parker home, agreeing to a two-year, $40 million contract Saturday with the former Simeon star, according to a source.
The second year of the deal is a team option, meaning Paxson and general manager Gar Forman won’t be held hostage beyond this season if Parker doesn’t revitalize his career, keep his weight in check and avoid knee problems.
“Jabari is a 23-year-old player who is a natural fit with our young core and is a proven scorer at the NBA level,’’ Forman said in a statement. “We look forward to welcoming him back to his hometown.’’
That welcome will come much easier if Parker is fully recovered from two surgeries on his left anterior cruciate ligament and he can stay in playing shape.
Saying that Parker has at times looked like he was a few pints of cookie-dough ice cream and a large deep-dish pizza away from eating his way out of the league has some merit. Concerns about his knee also have haunted the No. 2 pick in the 2014 draft.
The greatest ability a player can have is availability, and Parker has come up very short in that department, playing in just 183 games in his first four years.
There’s a reason the Bucks rescinded the qualifying offer on the restricted free agent, allowing him to sign with the Bulls.
Either the Bucks’ front office was smarter than Gar/Pax and had no problem letting the Bulls dig through their roster trash, or Gar/Pax have pulled a fast one on their division rivals, setting the stage for a young core that consists of Parker, Zach LaVine, Lauri Markkanen, Wendell Carter Jr. and Kris Dunn.
Time will tell.
If Parker is healthy, in game shape for coach Fred Hoiberg’s space-and-pace offense and can be the forward who averaged 20.1 points and 6.2 rebounds in 2016-17 before he was injured yet again, maybe Paxson’s April declaration will be accurate.
“It’s not a situation that any of us want to ever be in again,’’ Paxson said then about the dismal second half. “It goes against everything as a competitive person that you believe in, but it’s the way the system is set up.’’
The Bulls are hoping they took advantage of that system when they traded Jimmy Butler and blew up the roster last summer.
That’s why, as despised as Forman has become in the eyes of many Bulls fans over the last five years, he has an out: If this core can gel and start to show its talent this season, then give Forman his due because rebuilds aren’t supposed to turn around this quickly. Not in the NBA.
That also means the heat will be on Hoiberg and his coaching staff to make sure this group not only continues to develop but starts winning.
The standings will tell the story of this rebuild, and make no bones about it, Reinsdorf will be watching.
NOTES: The Bulls’ Summer League season came to an end with a 72-66 loss to the Pistons in Las Vegas in the second round of the playoffs. Antonio Blakeney led the Bulls with 24 points. Chandler Hutchison added 11. Wendell Carter Jr. had six points, 16 rebounds and two blocks.
— The Bulls released guard Julyan Stone and forward Paul Zipser.