Bulls’ front office admits it’s not ready for big-name free agents yet
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Bulls vice president of basketball operations John Paxson and general manager Gar Forman swear there’s a plan in place.
The Bulls’ two front-office heads even dipped their toes in laying it out Thursday.
It came with a plea of patience, a promise of good things to come, and then of course a punch in the face to the fan base with the admittance that big-name free agents aren’t coming here this summer or maybe anytime soon.
Welcome to the rebuild, folks.
“We’re trying to get there,’’ Paxson said of the Bulls being a major player in franchise-changing talent. “We were part of the deal [in 2010] when LeBron [James] and those guys were out. We didn’t get them, but we were part of that process. We were in the game, as New York will be in the game this summer, I’m sure. We are not at that stage. Is it a black eye? No. I don’t consider it. That’s our aspiration. We’ve understood that process we’re in right now is hoping to get to that point, but we also believe that the draft is very important in order to build to get to there, and that’s why we are sitting here a year and a half after trading Jimmy [Butler] with Lauri Markkanen and Wendell Carter out of the draft, another draft pick coming up, and time will tell.
“But I’m confident in our ability to get there, because we’ve done it before and we understand that as painful as it is for our fans and everybody else, that we have to remain patient and continue to constantly make the decisions we’re making.’’
The latest decision they made came Wednesday night when they traded Bobby Portis, Jabari Parker and a 2023 second-round pick to the Wizards for Otto Porter.
Bringing in Porter and his big-time contract — $55.7 million over the next two seasons — likely means no big-name free agent will be coming to the Bulls anytime soon. Paxson and Forman, though, had a slightly different take on it.
“Our intentions and goals will be . . . we’re going to have a high draft pick [in June], a second-round pick, and with the money we have available we want to address the veteran players that we feel can fit the team and help our young players along,’’ Paxson said. “That’s been the challenge with the rebuild, is finding the right veterans and lead[ers] in the locker room.’’
It’s seemingly not the only challenge.
Bringing Parker home was a huge swing and miss, and there was at least some transparency on that front.
“We accept responsibility for all the moves we make,’’ Paxson said. “We thought at the time it was worth a roll of the dice given where we’re at. It didn’t work out for either party. That sometimes happens. It has allowed us to make a move that we’re happy with.’’
The other challenge is selling the fan base on coach Jim Boylen. Despite the organization insisting that they are committed to Boylen, there has been a lot of outside noise calling their bluff.
Paxson reiterated the team’s stance on Boylen loud and clear.
“Sitting here today, we have every intention [of keeping Boylen for next season],’’ Paxson said. “And like I said, we’re working well together. Our objectives are the same.
“Jim’s doing the right things, and from our seats he’s promoting the right message to our players and what we expect and what we want.’’
Forman wasn’t bashful about jumping in. Asked about committing to Boylen, Forman said, “Absolutely.’’