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Bulls VP John Paxson: ‘It will strengthen us because we have to band together’

MEXICO CITY — John Paxson knows what is being said about his organization these days.

He’s not tone-deaf to the punchline.

His rebuttal came Wednesday.

“There’s nothing we can do about it,’’ Paxson said, minutes before his team practiced for their game against the Magic on Thursday. “Over a week ago we made a change that we felt, and truly believed, was for the right reasons. Not going to go into details because that’s not anyone’s business but ours, to be honest with you.

“The only thing that discourages me is when there are storylines out there and no one asks us our side of the story. It’s easy to look from the outside in and gather information from other people around the league that you know, but if you’re not coming directly to us, how do you really know? I’m confident in what we’re doing. I think this will — in some ways as we go along — it will strengthen us, because we have to band together now. There’s so much noise out there, so much negativity. I don’t feel it inside our building or our locker room. Like I said, I think that what happened the last week, long term, will be a good thing.’’

And not just for the current roster.

As coach Jim Boylen insisted Tuesday, the feeling is that the Bulls soon will be a preferred destination for free agents as the team’s rebuild takes off.

That optimism persists even amid talk of hard practices, public criticism of player toughness, the reported player mutiny, and the formation of a leadership committee to improve player communication with Boylen.

“Again, we’re not at that stage to worry about it,’’ Paxson said. “All along what we’ve talked about is in the long run, if our young guys develop the way we think they can develop, and they become top NBA-type players  — Lauri Markkanen, Wendell Carter Jr., Zach [LaVine], to that degree — and you get to be a pretty good basketball team, I think that sells people wanting to play with guys like that. You see it all the time. The good players want to play with the other good players, so we’ll address that when the time comes.’’

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What Paxson wanted addressed immediately was the young Bulls lacking an identity.

The hope is that Boylen’s tough-love style not only will promote an identity but also let the organization know which players aren’t good long-term fits.

“I mean, we had Tom Thibodeau here for years, and he coached hard,’’ Paxson said. “He worked guys hard. He demanded. And then we got criticized for relationships with him. It’s all backwards to me. I don’t look at this as old school. I look at this as setting a standard of how you want to play every day. I think great players, players that want to be part of a team, buy into those things. And like I said, if guys don’t want to buy in, then it will be on me and [general manager] Gar [Forman] to figure that out.

“I wouldn’t call it a weeding out. . . . We’ve talked about being disciplined, patient. I know that’s hard for people to understand. Again, we’re not even two years into this change, and I think it’s all going to be healthy in the long run.’’