The Chicago Bulls’ season officially came to a close last night at the United Center, where they won 115-105, against the lowly Philadelphia 76ers. And after their meaningless win, John Paxson and Gar Forman addressed the media to reflect on the season and the future. In their roughly 30-minute press conference, they blamed almost everyone but themselves for this disappointing season, and they were right to do so.
Paxson and Forman left room for a lot of speculation last night, but they did make a few things clear: their jobs and Fred Hoiberg’s are safe.
“…there was a report that Gar’s job is in jeopardy. It’s not. We’ve had one bad year. I can point to a lot of really good years where we’ve built something from scratch…”
“We still believe Fred has a bright future. I’ve seen a lot of young guys in this league come in and have tough first years or second years… The same can be said for coaches…We’re confident spending time with Fred and going forward, we’re going to turn that part around…”
Paxson did take some accountability for his part in this dismal season. “…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.” And that is all he can do, because the NBA, is a players’ league.
If this team would have made the NBA Finals this season, Paxson and Forman would have received very little credit. The faces behind the microphones before game-1 would have been Jimmy Butler and Derrick Rose. If this miracle had occurred, they would receive all the credit, and rightfully so, because players win championships, not front offices.
However, as is often the case in professional sports, we praise the players for winning, but look to blame everyone else for losing.
This team lacked both the mental and physical toughness to compete at a high level, on a nightly basis, all season long. While some will blame this on Hoiberg, that’s a hard sell. The same group that quit on him this year, quit on Tom Thibodeau last year, in an even bigger spot.
Players need to be emotionally invested for every game. Their energy cannot be dictated by anyone else, and Paxson made this point very clear to the team he helped assemble.
“I left a final message with our group and told them this year wasn’t acceptable.”
Coaches help the process, and the great ones, as we have seen with Brad Stevens this year, can outcoach their roster’s talent. However, those are the exceptions, not the rule. And many thought this Bulls roster, as constructed by Paxson and Forman, had the talent to win this year. And that talent did not preform nearly well enough to do so.
Butler is a two-time All-Star on a max deal, that touted his leadership much of this season. Rose, who played in 66 games, is a former NBA MVP. Therefore, they should have been the ones that had to address this lost season, as it came to an end. Players get all of the credit for winning, and this year more than most, they should take all of the blame for losing.