Bulls opt for status quo, likely to retain Forman and Paxson

I’m just going to come right out and say it: the Chicago Bulls clearly don’t want to win another championship any time soon.

How do I know that? Because for some reason, in the midst of a second consecutive season of struggling to even stay in the Eastern Conference playoff picture, they’ve decided that the status quo continues to be just fine.

Per Bulls writer K.C. Johnson of the Chicago Tribune, sources familiar with owner Jerry Reinsdorf’s thoughts on the matter have stated that both executive vice president John Paxson and general manager Gar Forman’s jobs are safe heading into this offseason.

That’s right: at 26-26 (7th in the Eastern Conference), coming off a year in which they did not make the playoffs, after promising their team would get “younger and more athletic” only to sign 35-year-old Dwyane Wade and an aging/bad/problematic Rajon Rondo, following their firing of a winning (albeit flawed) head coach in favor of a spineless coach achieving middling results at best, and in spite of the absolute circus their franchise has been in the last month alone because of this confluence of decisions, the architects of this once-proud franchise’s irrelevance get to keep on keeping on.

If you’re wondering, like I am, what in the world the front office is thinking, well, here you go.

“One internal belief is that this represents the first season in the attempt to open a new championship window after the franchise had ridden out Derrick Rose’s maximum contract — and myriad injuries — until finally trading Rose with one season left on the deal. There’s also an internal feeling that Forman’s publicly stated goal to remain competitive while overhauling the roster over several seasons to get younger and more athletic is working.”

Ok…yes, the average age of the Bulls’ roster in years is down to 25.9 vs. 27.9 last season. So yes, statistically the Bulls are younger than they were last year. And among some of the young contributors are Paul Zipser (21), this year’s 2nd-round pick and Jerian Grant (23), who was acquired this offseason from the New York Knicks in the Derrick Rose trade.

But how about some of those other young players?

Where’s Isaiah Canaan (24) these days?

How about last year’s 1st-round pick, Bobby Portis (20)?

Is Denzel Valentine (22) really that inconsistent/unprepared to play compared to what the Bulls have been throwing onto the court that he shouldn’t be sticking with this team instead of being sent down to the D-League seemingly once a month just to get some run in?

Why does is seem like Nikola Mirotic (24) is actually getting progressively worse at basketball as his career progresses? By almost all accounts, he’s certainly playing a good deal worse than he did last season.

But hey! It sounds like ownership doesn’t mind.

“The Reinsdorfs still hold management’s talent evaluation in high regard, one source said, and also have valued its ability to avoid hamstringing the franchise with bloated, long-term contracts for players with minimal impact.”

Because signing/drafting minimally impactful players, keeping them on short-term deals, and then letting them walk away only to sign/draft more players of the same kind is so much better, right?

All the while, the Bulls remain stuck solidly in neutral while teams like the Cleveland Cavaliers, Boston Celtics, and Toronto Raptors continue to ascend/remain in a stratosphere far above them in the Eastern Conference.

Bulls’ brass can blame things on Rose’s huge contract if they want to and say that they’re just getting started in the process of opening a new championship window, but let’s be brutally honest here: there is no championship window to be opened here with this roster.

Not with Butler as your best player and struggling with his own consistently, let along the consistency of the rest of the team.

Not with an aging Wade, who will be 36 next year and is contemplating whether or not he even wants to be with the Bulls next year (for $23 million, no less), as your next best player, when he’s slowly but surely becoming less of the dominant force he used to be.

Not with a cast of young players that apparently, according to Butler and Wade anyway, have questionable motivation and commitment.

And not with a head coach that has proven unable to exert enough authority to even keep his star player from walking off the court unbidden in the middle of a game.

The book on the Reinsdorfs, whether we’re talking about the Bulls or the Chicago White Sox, is that they’re very loyal and value continuity, which is not in itself a bad quality. And there’s some concern

But when you are loyal to and desire continuous mediocrity, well…that’s how you get to be in basketball hell.

The fact that ownership can look at this organization as currently constructed and decide, without even a need to evaluate for the full length of the season, that the guys largely responsible for this ship getting stranded at sea still get to decide which way it’s going makes it look like they just like being lost.

So yeah…if I were you, I wouldn’t be looking forward to more championship banners any time soon. Might have to look to the north side of town for that.

Khari Thompson

I'm currently a graduate student studying biology at the University of Notre Dame that follows sports (especially the Bears and Bulls) less like a hobby and more like a second job. Also a fan of all things dinosaurs. And Tolkien. Twitter: @kdthompson5

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