John Paxson, Gar Forman discuss Bulls' disappointing 2015-16

ByNick Friedell ESPN logo
Thursday, April 14, 2016

CHICAGO -- Bulls executive vice president John Paxson said Wednesday night that the jobs of general manager Gar Forman and coach Fred Hoiberg are not in jeopardy but that he will explore all options with the roster this offseason, which officially started for the team following Wednesday night's season-ending win against the Philadelphia 76ers.

"First thing's first, obviously, this year didn't turn out the way we had hoped it would," Paxson said after the game, which left the Bulls at 42-40 and on the outside looking in at the playoffs for the first time since 2007-08. "We're disappointed in that. Gar and I, as we sit here together and talk about this, we understand accountability. And we are accountable for what this team did this year. 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.

"This roster for whatever reason -- we brought back, we thought they had one more shot to make a real positive run in the Eastern Conference. 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 or toughness that's needed to battle through adversity. And to me, that's the biggest disappointment in all of this. And again, that falls on all of us."

Paxson said Forman's job is not in jeopardy as the Bulls start the process of trying to figure out how to get back near the top of the Eastern Conference.

"We're not going anywhere," Paxson said.

Paxson also said the Bulls were committed to first-year head coach Fred Hoiberg, who admittedly struggled to get through to his players throughout the season.

As far as the roster, Paxson repeatedly said Wednesday night that every option is on the table. Asked if the Bulls were committed to All-Star swingman Jimmy Butler as the face and leader of the organization moving forward, Forman wouldn't say.

"I would say, I think John made it pretty clear we've got to take a look at everything," Forman said. "We've got to explore all options, and I don't think there's anything that's off the table when you have a disappointing year like this. With that said, obviously Jimmy has had a fantastic year. From where he was to where he's gotten to, he's become a very, very valuable player for us."

After signing a max extension last summer, Butler said several times over the season that he wanted to become more of a leader, but his approach chafed several veteran teammates and didn't go over well throughout the organization, especially after he ripped Hoiberg in late December, saying he had to coach the Bulls "harder."

Forman also said a reported deal involving Pau Gasol at the trade deadline wasn't made because the Bulls didn't like what they would get back.

"At the end of the day as we evaluated everything that was brought in front of us and that we were talking about, there was nothing that was brought to us that we felt was a real asset, both short term and long term," he said.

Forman went on to say that cap room "is an asset" and didn't sound as committed to Gasol's future in Chicago as he did at the deadline, when he said Gasol was part of the team's "core."

When asked about the Bulls' defensive woes all season, Paxson was blunt in his assessment, pointing out Derrick Rose's struggles.

"We weren't very good defensively, especially individually," Paxson said. "We couldn't keep people in front of us, and that's important. Especially, that always starts with your guards, especially your point guard, creating, setting a tone. That's an area Derrick's really going to have to work on this summer. We need our point guard to set the tone defensively, there's no question about that. On any basketball team, that's where it starts."

When asked whether Rose was a long-term piece for the Bulls, Paxson also was noncommittal.

"Derrick's under contract for another year," Paxson said. "Like Gar said, everything's on the table right now."

Paxson and Forman made it clear there were no untouchables on the roster.

"I played with one guy who was untouchable, [and he was the only one] I've ever been around in Michael Jordan," Paxson said. "So that's how I've always looked at it."

Paxson admitted that the Bulls have an interest in trying to re-sign center Joakim Noah, who will be an unrestricted free agent this summer. Noah missed most of the season after having shoulder surgery in January.

"Jo's an unrestricted free agent, as is Pau," Paxson said. "We've got several of those on our roster. A lot of that, this is up to them. We are going to sit down with Jo obviously, his agent, and we're going to talk and see what ... obviously, in situations like this, it has to be right for both sides. I think anybody who has been around us, anybody who has spoken to either Gar or I about Joakim, they know how we feel about him. He represents a lot of things that we believe in. To me, he's one of the most genuine people I've ever been around in this business, as far as players goes, that's how I've always looked at it. So I have an affinity for Jo. But we've got to talk, and we've got to see where it goes."

In a statement, Bulls chairman Jerry Reinsdorf said the team will be "strategic and aggressive in the steps taken to improve the team."

Said Reinsdorf: "I want our fans to know that we are grateful for the way they stood by us during a season in which we fell far short of our expectations and that the resources needed will be made available to get this team moving in the right direction."