Bulls

Paxson: Bulls 'realistic' about current state, won't be players for Russell Westbrook

Paxson: Bulls 'realistic' about current state, won't be players for Russell Westbrook

To the small pocket of the Bulls' fan base who wanted Russell Westbrook, we've got unfortunate news.

Bulls VP John Paxson joined 670 The Score on Thursday to discuss a number of topics, including the potential of trading for disgruntled All-Pro Russell Westbrook.

And while Paxson didn't come right out and say the Bulls weren't interested, his response told much of the story.

"Everybody pays attention obviously to what's going on, what the deals around the league are," Paxson said. "But I think every team is at kind of a different stage of development and evolution. There are teams that are going to take a real shot at someone like that. You have to factor in everything. When you look at the financial aspect of a player that's 30 going out four years and the amount of money that's going to be made, those things can tie your hands up and put your organization in a tough position."

Westbrook, an eight-time All-Star and 2017 MVP, still has four years and $170 million left on the $205 max extension he signed in 2017. His current contract will pay him $47 million in 2022, when he'll be a 34-year-old entering his 15th NBA season.

He's undoubtedly talented, having averaged a triple-double each of the last three seasons and leading the league in scoring in 2017. But Westbrook's inefficiencies, decline in production and shooting, and age make his contract a difficult one to move. The Bulls would be better with Westbrook, but it's tough to see them as contenders in a top-heavy East that still includes rising teams like the Bucks, Sixers and Nets. The Westbrook-to-Bulls speculation never made much sense.

For those reasons, Paxson said the Bulls are more likely to see their young prospects through instead of bringing in a player like Westbrook who doesn't fit their timeline.

"We're trying to build this thing given our timeline, and our timeline started two years ago in terms of a rebuild," Paxson said. "When you look at the number of changes we made in the past year with the 15-man roster, I think they're significant. I think we've upgraded our talent level while staying young. I think our prospects of being that competitive team are high."

Paxson said the hope is once those young players like Lauri Markkanen, Zach LaVine, Wendell Carter Jr. and Coby White progress, and the Bulls have ample cap space to attract big-name free agents, that Chicago will be a destination.

"You want the superstars. You want to do what the Clippers are doing and the Lakers are doing, but we're realistic right now," he said. "We're not in that position. We hope that in a couple years with the development of these young guys, players around the league view us as a destination point where they can win at the highest level. I believe we'll be there if our young guys perform the way we hope they will."

Report: ESPN moving release of 'The Last Dance' documentary on 1998 Bulls to April

Report: ESPN moving release of 'The Last Dance' documentary on 1998 Bulls to April

It's happening. We did it.

Monday night, Andrew Marchand of the New York Post reported that ESPN is moving up the release date of 'The Last Dance,' the highly anticipated 10-part documentary series on Michael Jordan and the 1998 Bulls, in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic.

According to Marchand, the new start date will be April 19. Until now, the docuseries was billed as being released some time in June.

Some writing had been on the wall that this might be coming. In mid-March, commercials for 'The Last Dance' began advertising the series as 'Coming Soon' instead of 'Coming in June.' ESPN shortly thereafter dismissed rumors of the release date moving up — saying the documentary had yet to be completed — only to be indirectly contradicted by LeBron James and (ESPN employee) Richard Jefferson on the Road Trippin' podcast late last week.

Now, it's nearly official. Marchand reported that ESPN is planning to announce the new release date on Good Morning America Tuesday morning.

So rejoice, Bulls fans and sports lovers, at large. It won't replace the entirety of the void left by the halting of live sports, but this series is sure to be essential, enthralling TV, and as close as the sports world get to a monocultural event under the current parameters.

And above all, what a win for NBA Twitter. They keep rolling in.

Click here to download the new MyTeams App by NBC Sports! Receive comprehensive coverage of your teams and stream the Bulls easily on your device.

Bulls observations: The full Dennis Rodman experience sends Knicks packing

Bulls observations: The full Dennis Rodman experience sends Knicks packing

The Knicks are hitting the links and the Bulls are going to the Eastern Conference Finals. Observations:

A splendid series for Dennis Rodman

This series felt like the full Dennis Rodman experience, and it was delightful. In terms of production, he averaged 15.6 rebounds (4.8 offensive) across five games and dished two game-swinging assists to close out Game 4 at The Garden. As a team, the Bulls were +39 on the boards (winning the offensive glass 84-45) in the series.

In the clincher, Rodman posted 11 points and 12 rebounds — relatively pedestrian by his standards. But he was omnipresent throughout nonetheless, a whirlwind of limbs careening into every rebound scrum, passing lane and screen set. His swagger and unbridled joy for the game were on full display, too:

 

 

Every foul call (there were six in this one, plus an ejection) drew a performance. Every bump from a Knicks player elicited subtle retaliation. And every move he made was met by raucous cheers from the home crowd. Chicago really loved Rodman, and he earned it every time he stepped on the floor.

It all culminated with a litany of peak Dennis moments in the fourth quarter. With just over four minutes left to play, he leapt down the floor and into Luc Longley’s arms after a fastbreak Longley dunk that he assisted put the Bulls up 13. Moments later, he sealed the game for good with a layup to similar celebration (this time, Ron Harper got the hug). 

And the coups de gras: With about a minute left and the game out of reach, he picked up a suspect second technical (which led to an ejection) after he had committed a sixth personal foul. A fiery exit and impassioned jersey chuck into the frenzied UC stands capped it off. All in a day’s work for The Worm. His evolution from fierce rival to beloved anti-hero is truly something to behold.

 

Unfortunately, NBC Sports Chicago wasn’t able to get the reel from this game’s ‘Walk of Shame’ but we’re sure it was as entertaining as ever after this one.

“Playing in the mud”

Those were Tom Dore’s words early in the fourth quarter, and boy were they apt. For this game and the entire series. 

Without fail, mid-90s Bulls-Knicks seems to be a recipe for slog. A fistfight where all the blows are contested midrange jumpers and wild elbows. Only once in the series did a team reach 100 points (the Knicks, in Game 3). In this one, the Knicks hit their first 3-pointer with just outside of a minute remaining in the third quarter (finishing 2-for-13 overall). 

Man, how times have changed: 

 

But ultimately, this series amounts to another whooping, one the Knicks appeared noticeably demoralized by the end of. The Bulls’ swagger is just unmatched. We’ve detailed Rodman’s individual exploits, but there really is a collective feeling of inevitability when this team gets rolling, as they did in the second half of this game. Somehow, Michael Jordan’s 36-point average in this series felt under-the-radar, but he was capable of ripping New York’s hearts out seemingly on a whim.  

And beyond even the players, this team’s energy seemed to seep into the city around them. At one point in this game, cameras panned to a fan-posted ‘Title Ticker’ on the UC wall, counting down the numbers of wins remaining until another Bulls championship. “Another One Bites the Dust” blared as the Knicks sauntered off, defeated. Even from afar, it’s apparent that this dynasty was a full-city effort.

And another late-series gem, from Johnny “Red” Kerr: 

So long, Knickerbockers.

Passing thoughts

  • Jordan (35 points, 5 assists) and Pippen (15 points, 11 rebounds, 5 steals) remain absolutely ridiculous. And Ron Harper, who poured in an impactful 12, is still one of my biggest personal revelations from this Rewind run. Couldn’t go this whole post without shouting out their nights.

  • We had a sad, then animated, then sad again Spike Lee make multiple appearances throughout this one. You simply have to respect the grind.

  • Seriously. Bring back the classic Bulls intro theme. I’ll never ask for anything again.

  • Uh, what?

 

See you Wednesday at 7 p.m. CT for Game 1 of the Eastern Conference Finals against the Magic.

Every other night through April 15, NBC Sports Chicago is airing the entirety of the Bulls' 1996 NBA championship run. Find the full schedule here.

Click here to download the new MyTeams App by NBC Sports! Receive comprehensive coverage of your teams and stream the Bulls easily on your device.