Executive Vice President of Basketball Operations John Paxson joined Mully & Haugh on 670 The Score earlier today to preview the upcoming season.
Here’s what you missed alongside some thoughts of my own!
We’re Talking Playoffs
Finally, Paxson is talking about the Bulls playoff aspirations (yay!) – something he admitted wasn’t on the agenda over the previous two seasons (boooo!). While a healthy year from the Bulls core should help this team get back on track, Paxson believes it’s still important to remember just how young this roster is.
“We also have to be realistic in that we’re still a very young group, second youngest team I believe in the league, in terms of age, but I told the guys you can’t use youth as an excuse. I think maturity is a big thing, I think even our young guys are mature individuals.”
The Bulls are the second-youngest team in the league, and that can certainly bring its own challenges. However, Paxson’s fully aboard the Boylen Boat, and he believes his new head coach can right the ship.
The Boylen Change
According to Paxson, this team is bought-in.
The script has flipped almost 180 degrees from the start of Jim Boylen’s reign as head coach in December of 2018. All that work behind-the-scenes has built strong relationships with his players, something Paxson seems to believe went a long way toward getting everyone to attend voluntary workouts in September. We also saw chemistry start to blossom on the court during the preseason, and Paxson didn’t fail to mention the 38-assist outing the Bulls had against the New Orleans Pelicans.
What brought on all of this change?
“Some of it is personnel-related, I do believe that,” Paxson said. “In defense of Jim, when he got the job in December last year, you’re just trying to create a culture more than anything, an environment that shows you’re in a leadership position. He was trying to reinforce somethings early on last year, attacking the rim, getting to the basket, playing downhill. But, candidly, our personnel last year, with the injuries that we had, we were trying to play with guys that weren’t necessarily shooters.”
Paxson’s certainly got a point, and it’s why many after watching the Bulls preseason appear willing to give Boylen a chance. All that talk about establishing fundamentals and pounding the paint appear to be entirely circumstantial, and we’re now seeing the type of basketball Boylen actually wants to run.
“The encouraging thing for me as I watched this preseason was the quality of the three we were able to get,” Paxson said. “It’s through the philosophy of finding gaps in the defense, penetrating, kicking – and Jim has really emphasized the extra pass to the open shooter.”
Testing out an entirely different style could come with growing pains, but Paxson mentioned that Boylen has consistently reminded his team about all the movement the NBA experienced this past offseason. The Bulls aren’t the only team with new additions and adjustments to make, which could create a small opening to gain a leg up on opponents.
“The team that comes together soonest maybe has a little advantage …” Paxson said.
Stay Healthy, Gosh Darn It
The Bulls can’t stay healthy, and Paxson knows it:
“You hate saying it because people always go ‘Oh, well that’s an excuse’ and that type of thing, but we literally have not been able to put out the group we’ve wanted to put out,” Paxson said. “We’d love for us to be healthy so we can see what we do have and how they can come together.”
While the Bulls depth is much improved, they’re still lacking drastically at the wing. Otto Porter will play a big role, and we’ve already learned the organization spoke with him about load management for this coming season. According to Paxson, it sounds like he will not be the only player the Bulls watch closely.
“We have some guys on our roster that we’ll really look at in terms of minutes that they play to try and keep them healthy and available to play,” Paxson said.
Those starters need to stay on the floor.
Coby White is a baller. You know it. I know it. Paxson knows it.
As of now, the team isn’t putting a label on White, but rather looking at him as a scoring sparkplug off the bench. Paxson believes this is a perfect role for the rookie to start out.
“I think Coby, right now, is in a very good role for himself,” Paxson said. “The great thing about him is he’s a positive kid, he accepts his role. I think he’ll see as this goes on this puts him in a position to be successful, there’s not too much pressure on him, any of those kinds of things. He’s been everything we’d hope he would be, but again I’ve seen a lot of young kids in this league and the regular season comes upon you and it’s a little bit different.”