Jimmy Butler is going to want some answers.
After all, with seven regular-season games left and the Bulls on the brink of jumping back into the Eastern Conference playoffs, now is not the time. But according to a source in Butler’s camp, when the season comes to an end – playoffs or no playoffs – the Bulls front office has some explaining to do to their three-time All-Star.
Specifically, what was the exact plan this past season, and what is the direction moving forward.
Not a new revelation for Butler by any means. More of a slow burn since the trade deadline for the team’s best player.
And a request that is more than justified.
No one front office in the Association has hampered its team’s own ability to reach the playoffs this season more than general manager Gar Forman and VP of basketball operations John Paxson, and if the Bulls manage to reach postseason play the credit will fall directly on the players and even head coach Fred Hoiberg.
Just follow the timeline from this season for proof of that.
First, there’s the Rajon Rondo drama. Rondo was signed in the summer to be the starting point guard, and was given the keys to the offense by Hoiberg. One problem – that was before the front office had Dwyane Wade fall into their laps.
By the time Rondo was having the ball pulled from his grip, as well as tossing towels in the faces of assistant coaches, the front office also started shopping the veteran. When there were no takers, they embarrassed Rondo by not only taking him out of the starting lineup, but completely out of the rotation.
The focus would shift to the development of young point guards like Michael Carter-Williams and Jerian Grant. That was the sell.
The problem? Grant and Carter-Williams weren’t getting the job done. Slowly, Rondo was given more minutes, working with the second unit, but Gar/Pax weren’t done tinkering with the point guard spot. They then decided they needed another young player to audition.
Enter Cameron Payne, and exit Taj Gibson and Doug McDermott in a trade deadline deal with Oklahoma City. The explanation given then was Gibson was a free agent and they wanted to get something in return, while McDermott just wasn’t developing.
A nice smokescreen, but one that would only work if Payne was a factor. He has been, but for the Windy City Bulls of the D-League.
So how are the Bulls still afloat at the point guard position? Because the same Rajon Rondo that the front office killed the value of and then couldn’t trade, has proven the obvious by outplaying the three players Gar/Pax wanted to anoint “the point guard of the future.’’ To Hoiberg’s credit, he has played a factor in defying the focus of the youth movement, leaning back on Rondo.
A source indicated that it has put a strain on the relationship with Forman, but has helped the second-year coach at least win the locker room.
Rondo’s not the only player Gar/Pax wanted out of the rotation and then moved to a different franchise, either. Nikola Mirotic was in the same boat, and like Rondo, has endured the ever-changing front office plan, only to ride in on a white horse the last nine games and give the Bulls a legitimate outside scoring threat.
Again, credit Hoiberg for understanding the importance of winning games over winning the PR of a trade.
So how will this end?
That remains to be seen.
But it better involve Gar/Pax sitting down with Butler and finally offering up some transparency.