Paxson addresses future after Bulls' disappointing season ends

Paxson addresses future after Bulls' disappointing season ends

Calling the season a “disappointment” and "unacceptable", Bulls executive vice president John Paxson addressed the media along with general manager Gar Forman after the Bulls’ season-ending win over the Philadelphia 76ers.

It marks the first time the Bulls have ended their season with a lottery appearance since 2008, as they’ve fallen well short of expectations that didn’t just revolve around qualifying for the playoffs but the belief they could contend for supremacy in the Eastern Conference.

“Gar and I understand accountability. And we are accountable for what this team did this year,” Paxson said. “We don’t run away from it. We accept it. That’s on us. And we get it. And we understand what’s at stake.”

What’s at stake could be the Bulls’ standing in the conference and league, as the franchise faces a crucial offseason where Joakim Noah and Pau Gasol will be unrestricted free agents, along with deciding the best course of action with several key players on their roster.

“We had a bad year, we are not running from that,” Paxson said. “Changes need to be made. I’ll go down with a group that fights more than a group that doesn’t.”

Paxson roundly disputed reports Forman’s job was in jeopardy, and made no bones about the expectations that were placed in front of new coach Fred Hoiberg, as they didn’t make significant changes to a roster that lost in the second round of the 2015 playoffs.

“This roster we brought back, we thought they had one more shot to make a real positive run in the Eastern Conference,” Paxson said. “It obviously didn’t play out that way. And that’s where our biggest disappointment comes from. I do think that anybody who watched us play this year saw a team that didn’t have the collective fight and toughness to fight through adversity.”

The adversity included the myriad injuries the Bulls suffered for another year, starting from the first days of training camp when Mike Dunleavy underwent back surgery and Derrick Rose broke his orbital bone in the first 30 minutes of the first practice.

Forman added the entire roster wasn’t together en masse all season, punctuated by the season-ending injury to Noah in January—but Paxson added he talked to the team after the game and said he felt they still had enough to make the playoffs.

“We did have a lot of significant injuries that hurt us,” Paxson said. “But we as well as anyone understand that’s not an excuse. In fact, I told our guys, given the injuries, we were good enough to make the playoffs.”

Paxson and Forman addressed the seemingly endless controversy surrounding the players and their adjustment to Hoiberg, admitting Hoiberg endured some growing pains.

Hoiberg had situations with Noah as well as Jimmy Butler—situations Paxson pointed to Hoiberg saying he wished he’d do some things over again as growth within a tumultuous season.

“We’re in this with Fred,” Paxson said. “I think the last few days Fred has an opportunity to express some things that are honest and candid about what he needs to do better. It’s our responsibility to help him along that way.”

“What I've heard him say the last week or so, he's gonna do everything he can to improve and grow. I'm very confident he'll grow. How can you not through experience?”

[SHOP: Gear up, Bulls fans!]

At 42-40, the Bulls finished ninth in the East, but even if they made the playoffs, Paxson said they would evaluate things as honestly as they say they are as a lottery team.

“Tex Winter used to have an old saying that, ‘Winning covers a multitude of sins.’,” Paxson said. “And even had we gotten to the playoffs – we wanted to, believe me, that was the goal, even with all the injuries and anything – it would not have covered up a lot of the things, the issues we’ve discussed here. Those would not have gone away. We’d still be addressing them.”

Michael Porter Jr.: 'I'm the perfect fit for today's NBA game'

Michael Porter Jr.: 'I'm the perfect fit for today's NBA game'

Michael Porter Jr. grabbed some attention when he remarked that he was "perfect fit for today's NBA game" during an appearance on The Will Cain Show.

The interview went a long way towards showing off the uber-confident nature of Porter, who has consistently talked about being the best player in his class throughout the draft process. Porter also remarked that he was "an immediate impact guy," and that he "doesn't want it to take long to be one of the best players in the NBA."

His hubris has been intruiging considering the mystery surrounding the prospect.

During the interview Porter added that he would be open to doing more workouts for NBA front offices ahead of Thursday's NBA Draft. The only workout he has completed so far was his pro day workout in Chicago, and multiple reports have cited that Porter did look good shooting, though he was in an isolated setting with no defenders.

The one thing Porter has not done much throughout the process is talk about his weaknesses, which is somewhat concerning seeing as he has much to improve on. The general consensus is that a healthy Porter can get buckets at will. But if he can improve his ball-handling, rebounding and passing skills, he will be much more than a go-to scorer. Tightening his ball-handling skills is likely the key, as the ability to grab the rebound and push in transition would be a huge boon for Bulls head coach Fred Hoiberg's offense.

The biggest question when it comes to Porter on the Bulls is can he fit with Lauri Markkanen? Despite receiving many favorable Kevin Durant and Paul George comparisons leading up to the draft, there is a rising sentiment that his best position in the NBA may be the power forward spot. It is not yet known if he has the foot speed to stay in front of quicker wings in today's NBA. But at six-feet-ten-inches, it is easy to imagine him having a huge advantage against slower power forwards rather than wings. While Markkanen is not currently built to be a full-time center, playing him at the five with Porter at the four would present Hoiberg with a potentially devastating closing lineup.

Versatility is the name of the game in today's league, and Michael Porter Jr. may be the key to unlocking the full potential of Hoiberg's pace-and-space attack. 

Paul Zipser says he is unlikely to return to Bulls


Paul Zipser says he is unlikely to return to Bulls

Just two years after being drafted in the second round, Paul Zipser told German media that he doesn’t see the Bulls wanting him next season.

The Bulls have until mid-July to pick up Zipser's option.

"I would not be surprised if they no longer want me.” Zipser said in German and translated via Google Translate

“Actually, I'm pretty sure I will not play in Chicago soon.”

Last month, Zipser had surgery on his fractured left foot, in his native country of Germany, which grew speculation the Bulls wouldn’t pick up his player option for next season. Zipser said the surgery "went perfectly."

Zipser showed some flashes of potential in his rookie season, averaging 5.5 per game and 2.8 rebounds in 44 games. But this past season, he played more games, but injuries derailed him from improving his overall production. He finished with four points and 2.4 rebounds in 54 games, including 12 starts.

Zipser explained that things changed from his first year to his second year.

“They were very varied," Zipser said. "The first year was just going very well. I fought my way into the team from the beginning and showed how I can help the team. The Bulls just needed someone like me. That's why it worked so well. We benefited from each other - that's why we were successful.”

“That was very different. It was not right from the beginning, and I was already struggling with my injury. It was not quite clear what it is. If you have pain in your foot, you automatically go down a bit with intensity. You just do not want to hurt yourself and be completely out. It was then difficult for me to keep my head in the sport - I did not manage that well. Nevertheless, the injury should not be an excuse.”

Nothing is official yet, but it sounds like Zipser might not dress up in a Bulls uniform next year.