Report: Chicago Bulls VP John Paxson pushed Vinny Del Negro

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Things are a little tense in the Chicago Bulls front office.

According to Yahoo’s Adrian Wojnarowski, the recent tension between Bulls Vide President John Paxson and coach Vinny Del Negro turned physical.

After a loss to the Phoenix Suns on March 30, an irate Paxson walked into the coach’s office at the United Center and confronted Del Negro over a narrow breach of a management-imposed minutes limit on injured forward Joakim Noah(notes). Sources said Paxson first grabbed a hold of Del Negro’s tie and seemingly tried to provoke him with two successive jabs into his chest. Paxson was even heard to angrily challenge Del Negro to a fight.

There were several staff members present, sources said, and assistant coach Bernie Bickerstaff stepped between Paxson and Del Negro and pulled Paxson away.

The Bulls are now investigating the incident.

Despite the Bulls being in the middle of a playoff push — including a big game tonight against Boston — Joakim Noah has been on a management-imposed 35 minutes per game limit, imposed apparently by Paxson. It has been there all season due to Noah’s foot injury, and the minute limits have gradually increased through the year.

When the Bulls were losing to the Nets the other night in a close game that went to overtime, Del Negro wanted to use Noah more. He had his assistant ask general manager Gar Forman, who had to go ask Paxson.

Del Negro comes out smelling pretty good in this one so far, especially for someone who has reportedly been on the hot seat. He did not take Paxson’s bait. He has gone through channels to get more playing time for Noah in what should be a coach’s decision. He has done fairly well with a team that was set up to have cap space next year and not win this year, then suffered a rash of injuries and some trades. Yet the Bulls are close to making the playoffs.

Is it ever good when vice presidents become involved in player minute micromanagement?