Gar Forman could be the odd man out in a quiet Bulls restructure

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Honesty isn’t exactly a strength of the Bulls’ front office. Ask Jimmy Butler and his representatives about that.

The Sun-Times reported last week that Butler and his people thought general manager Gar Forman was less than honest with them leading up to the draft-night trade with the Timberwolves, an allegation Forman quickly denied.

That wasn’t the only denial this offseason. Days after the Bulls were eliminated from the playoffs by the Celtics, vice president John Paxson was asked in his state-of-the-team news conference about a report concerning the restructuring of the front office.

‘‘I’m going to make this clear,’’ Paxson said. ‘‘The setup we’ve had since Gar was named GM in 2009 has been [the same]; the hierarchy is the same. My responsibility is reporting to [chairman] Jerry and [president and COO] Michael [Reinsdorf]. Gar’s responsibility is reporting to me. We overlap in what we do every single day, and we work well together.

‘‘This is very much like in the business world, a CEO-COO relationship. My responsibilities lie mostly in defining the culture of what we do every day. Gar’s responsibility as GM is in the day-to-day grind of this business. That is a difficult job in dealing with agents and everything.

‘‘That’s the way we’ve always handled it. We feel we have a good staff. We have a very small staff. We use all our resources, so we will continue to do so. That’s as plain as it can be said.’’

A source told the Sun-Times, however, that there is some shuffling going on that might not bode well for Forman in the long run.

‘‘Keep an eye on [consultant] Jim Paxson,’’ the source said, referring to John’s older brother, who seems to be taking on more duties.

Forman is tied to two decisions right now that might force him to start thinking about his future.

The main one is the hiring of coach Fred Hoiberg. Forman handpicked Hoiberg out of the college ranks, and he has three years left on his contract. It’s essential that Hoiberg continue to grow as an NBA coach, especially through the early stages of the Bulls’ rebuild.

The second one is the acquisition of point guard Cameron Payne in a trade last season with the Thunder. The Bulls publicly have said all the right things about Payne, but they privately have expressed some doubt that he has staying power. Payne was a player Forman claimed was the Bulls’ ‘‘point guard of the future.’’

Front offices do have a shelf life. And while John Paxson remains safe, Forman’s hold on his job appears to be more tenuous. He has too many ‘‘yes men’’ around him and has rubbed too many former players the wrong way.

This is a critical time for the Bulls. Michael Reinsdorf has emerged as a positive leader, they finally have a direction and they have some good, young pieces.

But they’re overdue to shed some obvious dead weight. Just don’t ask them to be truthful about it.

Follow me on Twitter @suntimes_hoops.

Email: jcowley@suntimes.com

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