In what is seemingly becoming an annual tradition, Bulls Vice President of Basketball Operations John Paxson took to the airwaves on Christmas morning, joining David Schuster on 670 The Score to take a long, honest look at this year’s Bulls team.
For the first time since the Bulls media day back in September, John Paxson spoke publicly about how the season was going, and although we’ve come to recognize a particular type of inexplicable optimism from the Bulls front office (did you know they have the best record in the East over the last decade?), this conversation served as a noteworthy departure. There was no mention of the Three Alphas, nor did there seem to be many delusions about great postseason success.
Check out this transcription from Cody Westerlund at 670 The Score’s website for the full quotes.
Because it’s a conversation between two people about the Chicago Bulls, a mention of the pace of play was required by the laws that govern our universe:
“We’ve wanted to play with a little more pace, a little quicker. In this day and age, if you’re not advancing the ball quickly and you’re allowing defenses to set up and you’re fighting clock, that becomes an issue. One of the things I see Fred’s talked about is the fact that we get to fourth quarters, and we really stop pushing pace and the ball stops moving. That’s been one thing that’s really, really hurt us.”
Paxson doesn’t seem shocked by this problem, nor should he be. None of the Three Alphas are known for being great ball movers, and it would have been irrational to expect them to change so radically just because they’re now on a court with two other ball-stoppers. It would also be irrational to expect them to immediately become dynamite 3-point shooters. Paxson had something to say on that as well.
“It’s hurt us, there’s no question about it. We’re last in the league in 3-point shooting. We acknowledged that going in, that that would be an issue with us…we knew that was going to be a weakness of ours. It’s something we have to address. We did think we were going to shoot the ball a little bit better than we’re shooting it right now.”
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Both Rondo and Wade are shooting improved percentages from deep. It’s actually purported marksmen Doug McDermott and Nikola Mirotic that are struggling mightily to drain 3s. Doug is shooting 34 percent for the year, down 8.5 percent from last year, and Niko is shooting a disappointing 30.6 percent despite being a career 34.7 percent 3-point shooter.
On Niko’s struggles this season, Paxson said, “He should be shooting at a higher clip, but he does keep defenses honest. I think a lot of it is confidence and trust in yourself. You just have to keep grinding it out. That’s what this game is about, you play 82 games.”
Paxson had this to say about the Bulls’s egregious lack of athleticism:
“The area we really do need to improve is with our athleticism. That’s been evident this year as well. We’ve got some vets that know how to play, can score, but you know when you look around the league and how the game is now, that’s an area we have to address.”
Once again, Paxson can only look inward or at fellow manager Gar Forman when addressing the Bulls’ athletic woes. If an athletic team is the goal, signing Rajon Rondo and Dwyane Wade while drafting Doug McDermott and Denzel Valentine are inexplicable and counterproductive moves. Speaking of Wade, Paxson was asked if Dwyane’s presence could help in the attracting of big-name free agents in the summer of 2017. Paxson was pessimistic about it.
“You can’t count on that. I guess in your dreams you hope something like that might happen, but if you’re counting on that, to me, that’s not a plan. You’re just kind of hoping and wishing. That wasn’t a consideration. We looked at it as Dwyane was available in the short term, we hadn’t done anything to get up high in last year’s draft or anything to try to get really young and rebuild and we made that choice … that’s what we were looking at this past summer.”
Admitting that he was mainly just thinking about the short term when dealing in free agency isn’t exactly what you like hearing from the controller of your team’s destiny, but hey, at least he made that 3 in the Finals that one time right?
“Everybody wants a better team on the floor. There aren’t any excuses from us. We can point back to we thought we had it going, but Derrick blows out his knee and all of a sudden that changed our fortunes. Had he not gotten hurt, who knows what would’ve happened.”
Finally we have this, the perfect representation of a front office that says it’s moving on and may look like it on the surface, but is still talking about obstacles from 2012 and refusing to think past 2017.
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Good luck Bulls fans. You’ll probably need it for several years to come.