I know this already got play in today’s Fresh ink post, but I wanted to share a few more juicy bits from John Paxson’s recent mea culpa:
Regarding the team’s performance so far this season (which has sucked fallen below expectations): “I’m obviously not happy. I don’t think my expectations were such going into the season thinking we were going to be a top-level team. But what I want to see is the team play together. And right now, through 40-plus games, we’re not doing that. And that concerns me.” It apparently took him 40+ games to see this. You realize that, right?
Regarding the ”Captain of the Titanic after the ship had already hit the iceberg” performance of Vinny D and the rest of the coaching staff: “The only person I’ll evaluate right now is myself, and I obviously haven’t done the job of putting the type of team I want on the floor in terms of competitiveness and effort. That falls on me.” It’s pretty honorable for Pax to throw himself under the bus and everything…but notice how he used self-deprecation to completely dodge answering any questions about Vinny? Yeah, me too.
Regarding the team’s defense (read that: defenselessness): “It’s two things. The level of personal commitment to that side has to be there. And paying attention to whatever the scheme is you’re trying to run. I know [coach Vinny Del Negro] and his staff have tried to simplify a lot of things we’re doing defensively to try to get consistent at something. Even though we haven’t always been consistent moving the ball offensively, I still think we can score enough. But we’re giving up far too many points and far too many easy points. The defensive end has to get better, or we’re going to continue like [this].” Is it the schemes or the men coaching the schemes? Because I seem to remember Scott Skiles squeezing a lot of blood from a very similar turnip. Defensively speaking. Defense, which is less about athletic ability and more about focus and determination, is a mindset and it comes from the top.
Regarding how the team keeps choking down the stretch: “We’re not very good right now. We’re not playing well enough to win those games. … The turnovers we had throwing the ball away in the backcourt, it’s just concentration and focus. I’m not going to say I’m pleased we’ve been competing better because we want to win. I don’t like where we’re at. I don’t think anybody does.” Yes. Yes, you’re right about that, John. Except maybe Larry Hughes, who sounds pretty excited about it, since he’ll soon be getting a one-way ticket out of here.
There’s more in the article, including Paxson’s feelings on Derrick Rose, Luol Deng, trade possibilities and whether the team is secretly trying to position themselves for the 2010 Free Agent Bonanza. But while I appreciate that Pax has suddenly and seemingly out of nowhere developed a sense of self-awareness, I’m not sure I feel any more comfortable with the way he’s running the team. But let’s give him a chance, anyway. (Because we have no other choice at the present.)
Now with saracastic comments at the end of each quote!
K.C. Johnson of the Chicago Tribune: “John Paxson was matter-of-fact and candid in delivering a midseason state-of-the-Bulls address Wednesday at the Berto Center, admitting the Bulls are ‘not very good right now’ and acknowledging that he had failed to create the team he wants. Know this about the Bulls’ general manager: For all those who criticize him for failing to make a move or perhaps making the wrong one, Paxson already has pummeled himself over it. On the first day of training camp, Paxson said his top priority was to re-create the selfless, hustling, lunch-bucket teams that made three straight playoff appearances under Scott Skiles from 2005-07. Asked his assessment of where this season’s team stood in that category, Paxson said, ‘It’s not good enough.’” [So he wants things to get back to the way they were under the coach he famously fired on Christmas Eve. Good forward thinking, John.]
Brian Hanley of the Chicago Sun-Times: “Bulls general manager John Paxson is not happy. Not with his team. Not with himself. ‘The only person I’ll evaluate right now is myself, and I obviously haven’t done the job of putting the type of team that I want to have on the floor in terms of competitiveness and effort,’ Paxson said Wednesday when asked about the job coach Vinny Del Negro and his staff have done. The Bulls are 18-25. ‘That falls on me. That’s the only person I’m going to critique. That’s the way it is.’” [So he's finally blaming himself? Finally a decision the fans can get behind!]
Mike McGraw of the Daily Herald: “Finding a new home for Larry Hughes is something Bulls general manager John Paxson would like to accomplish before the Feb. 19 trade deadline. But Paxson provided more detailed insight into how he wants to reshape the Bulls following the team’s practice and a Navy induction ceremony Wednesday at the Berto Center. Specifically, he’d like to find another star player to complement rookie guard Derrick Rose. ‘A lot of our guys fit teams that have an established star or two,’ Paxson said. ‘We’d obviously like to get another guy with Derrick where every night you can say to yourself, we’ve got these two guys we can go to all the time, and fill around them.’ The best opportunity to add such a player might be in free agency, and the Bulls could create cap room in the summer of 2010 if they trade some long-term contracts or simply let Ben Gordon, Drew Gooden and Hughes walk away when their deals expire.” [So now the Bulls want in on the 2010 LeBron Lottery? Great. Only a season and a half worth of sucking to go...]
K.C. Johnson of the Chicago Tribune: “Calling his time with the Bulls ‘almost a non-experience,’ Larry Hughes continued Wednesday to answer questions calmly about his desire to play more — which won’t happen with the Bulls — or be traded. As he has maintained, Hughes said his biggest frustration is his lack of opportunity while pulling down a $12 million-plus paycheck. ‘The opportunity wasn’t there from the start of training camp, for whatever reason,’ he said. ‘I was brought here to contribute, and I haven’t been able to like I want to. But it’s a situation I have no control over, and I’m ready to move on from it.’ [Larry, Larry, Larry. We never wanted you. We just wanted Ben Wallace less.]
Dave D’Alessandro of The Star-Ledger: “The Nets did their due diligence on Hughes weeks ago, and one instance on March 4 was widely interpreted as telling: Three weeks after he was traded from Cleveland to Chicago, the 11th-year vet essentially said that he’d rather get shots with the Bulls than play in the NBA Finals for the Cavs, as he did the year before. ‘I play to enjoy myself. Some people take this the wrong way, but winning a championship is not what I base everything on,’ Hughes said. ‘I would rather enjoy myself with 18,000 to 20,000 people watching the game and the people sending fan mail and those things and be happy. I was asked to sacrifice for the (Cavs) to win and for everybody, I guess, to get paid. That is what was told to me, and I wasn’t happy with that. I was unhappy, though, and wasn’t myself. I’d rather enjoy the game than all that.’ What was often under-reported, however, is that Hughes was also dealing with a personal tragedy: His 20-year-old brother Justin had died from a heart ailment during the playoffs in May 2006.” [Geez. That's kinda sad.]
Mike McGraw of the Daily Herald: “Bulls general manager John Paxson admitted the obvious Wednesday, that he’s trying to accommodate guard Larry Hughes’ desire to find more playing time elsewhere. The veteran guard has sat out the last five games, but there is no guarantee that a suitable trade will be found since Hughes is due to make $13.6 million next season. He joined the Bulls last year from Cleveland in the Ben Wallace trade. ‘Right now I feel we have to play our younger guys,’ Paxson said. ‘I want to see Thabo (Sefolosha) get consistent minutes. We are working to try to move Larry, (but) Larry’s salary is such that it’s not always possible to do.’” [Okay, so you just now realized that? No wonder it took you so long to blame yourself.]
Steve Rosenbloom of the Chicago Tribune: “The Bulls choked at the end of a winnable game against the Hawks at home on Tuesday night, same as they did against the Knicks on Monday afternoon. Two stinkers, each marked by bad play and bad decisions, a combined 45 turnovers, kill me now or take this joke of a team off my HD. That stuff alone should tell you how pathetic this bunch is with their coach who has better hair than coaching credentials. But here’s how you know the Bulls players also know what a joke they are: Ben Gordon is talking about playoff chances because of how weak the Eastern Conference is.” [The Eastern Conference: Where, as Kevin Garnett might say, "Anything is pooooooossssiibble!!!]