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Report: Bulls’ front office execs Gar Forman, John Paxson’s jobs safe

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A month ago, speaking with Sean Highkin of The Athletic about the Bulls on the PBT Podcast, this topic came up: With the lack of direction this Bulls franchise is showing, are the jobs of vice president John Paxson and general manager Gar Forman in any danger? No was the answer. For the Reinsdorf family that owns the Bulls, loyalty matters and that will win the day.

K.C. Johnson of the Chicago Tribune talked to people inside the Bulls and got the same answer — the Gar/Pax front office is going nowhere.

Despite some outside perception to the contrary, the jobs of executive vice president John Paxson and general manager Gar Forman are safe, sources familiar with ownership’s thinking told the Tribune. In fact, ownership’s trust in Paxson and Forman remains so intact that they would be retained even if the Bulls miss the postseason for a second straight season, one source said.

It’s well-documented that Chairman Jerry Reinsdorf and son Michael, who runs the business side as president and chief operating officer, are loyal and long have favored front-office continuity. But there’s also inherent trust in the roster-building process that Paxson, Forman and their staff have in place.

One internal belief is that this represents the first season in the attempt to open a new championship window after the franchise had ridden out Derrick Rose‘s maximum contract — and myriad injuries — until finally trading Rose with one season left on the deal. There’s also an internal feeling that Forman’s publicly stated goal to remain competitive while overhauling the roster over several seasons to get younger and more athletic is working.

Some Bulls fans are not going to like this, but first off it’s the Reinsdorf’s team and their call, and second they are not wrong about a need for front office continuity. There is no surprise in this report.

If I were a Bulls fan, what would worry me from this story is the idea that ownership believes the process to overhaul the roster and get younger while not tearing down to rebuild is working.

This .500 team is being carried by at-his-peak 27-year-old Jimmy Butler, and 35-year-old Dwyane Wade. After that, which young players do you see on this roster drafted/assembled by Forman and Paxson that you would want to keep as part of this great future? Nikola Mirotic? Bobby Portis? Jerian Grant? Denzel Valentine? They drafted Tony Snell, but moved him for Michael Carter-Williams, who is not a significant part of the future either. Doug McDermott isn’t long-term answer, and Gar/Pax traded two first round picks to get him, picks that both became better players in Jusuf Nurkic and Gary Harris.

Maybe there is something with big man Cristiano Felicio as a part of a future rotation, same with Paul Zipser. But neither of those picks are game changers.

And that’s not even bringing up the Rajon Rondo signing.

Bottom line here, the Bulls are one of the least athletic rosters in the NBA and the last pick they nailed was Butler back in 2011.

The Bulls are a .500 team, and while we’ve heard their “rebuild on the fly around Butler” plans, it’s difficult to see that being executed.

PBT Extra: Can Rockets take Game 2 energy, execution on the road?

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Houston found its blueprint to beating Golden State in Game 2: Strong defensive pressure on the ball, quick switches and communication on defense, getting out in transition when possible, and starting sets earlier in the shot clock and attacking downhill with James Harden and Chris Paul.

Now can they do that on the road? Against a more focused and sharper Warriors’ team?

That will be the question in the next two games of the Western Conference Finals, and it’s what I discuss in this latest PBT Extra.

Cavaliers cruise past Celtics in Game 3, change complexion of Eastern Conference finals

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The Cavaliers were heavy favorites over the Celtics entering the Eastern Conference finals. LeBron James has dominated the East for years, and Cleveland appeared to hit its stride in a sweep of the Raptors last round. Boston was shorthanded and inexperienced.

Were the Celtics’ two wins to open the series, as impressive as they were, really enough to override everything else we knew about these teams?

The Cavs walloped Boston in Game 3, 116-86, Saturday. Cleveland now has four of the NBA’s last five 30-point playoff wins – two against the Celtics last year, one over Toronto last round and tonight. (The Cavaliers lost the league’s only other 30-point game between, to the Pacers in the first round.)

Boston still leads the series 2-1, and teams up 2-1 in a best-of-seven series have won it 80% of the time.

But the team up 2-1 is usually the one seen as better entering the series. That isn’t the case here, not with LeBron on the other side. And the leading team usually isn’t so woeful on the road, which will remain a major storyline entering Game 4 Monday in Cleveland.

The Celtics bought themselves margin for error, but they blew a lot of it tonight.

It’d be an oversimplification to say the Cavs just played harder, but they did, and it went along way. They chased loose balls, tightened their defense and moved more off the ball offensively. Cleveland jumped to a 20-4 lead, led by double digits the rest of the way and spent most of the game up by at least 20.

LeBron (27 points, 12 assists, two blocks and two steals) dazzled as a passer and locked in as a defender. He received help from several players:

In a low-resistance effort, Boston didn’t goon up the game at all.

The Cavaliers still have plenty of work ahead to reach their fourth straight NBA Finals, but tonight, they showed a path to advancing. Climbing out of their early series deficit now looks far less intimidating.

Luka Doncic named EuroLeague MVP at age 19

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Luka Doncic, the likely top two pick in the upcoming NBA draft, has led his Real Madrid team to the EuroLeague finals at age 19.

Now he has been named the youngest player ever win the EuroLeague MVP.

For those unfamiliar, EuroLeague is the equivalent of the Champions League in soccer — the very best club teams from around the continent face off against each other. On this biggest of European stages, Doncic has been a force. He is a gifted passer with great court vision. He can take his man off the dribble. He can hit threes. And he knows how to be a floor general and run a game. Did we mention he’s just 19?

Doncic said before the start of EuroLeague that he hasn’t decided what he is going to do about coming to the NBA or going back to Real Madrid. Don’t buy it. This is like asking a major college basketball star right before the NCAA Tournament if he is coming back to “State U” next year, they don’t want to say “no” right before the tourney so they give a non-committal answer. Same here. He’s not leaving millions on the table, he’ll be in the NBA next season.

And he’ll bee good.

Playoff losses wearing on LeBron James: ‘I lose sleep’

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Last season, the Cleveland Cavaliers lost one game before reaching the NBA Finals. The season before that, two. The season before that also two. In Miami before that, the last couple of years they went to the Finals the Heat lost three and four games before reaching the Finals.

This year, the Cavaliers have lost five games already and find themselves down 0-2 to the Boston Celtics heading into Game 3 Saturday night in Cleveland.

The losses do weigh on LeBron, as reported by Dave McMenamin of ESPN.

“I mean, I lose sleep,” James said after shootaround Saturday morning. “I mean, at the end of the day, when you lose any game in the postseason, [you lose sleep], so it’s never comfort. Playoffs is never comfort. There’s nothing about the playoffs that’s comfortable until you either win it all or you lose and go into the summer.

“So, for me, it’s always [a] day-to-day grind to figure out ways that you can be better.”

Cleveland has a lot to figure out to win the next two games because if they don’t and go down 3-1 in this series, it’s hard to envision how LeBron can drag this roster back to the Finals (what would be his eighth straight trip).

Offensively Cleveland has to get consistent play from guys other than LeBron (and to a lesser extent, Kevin Love) — J.R. Smith has been awful and needs to find a rhythm at home, George Hill needs to make some plays, Kyle Korver needs to get open and knock down some looks, and some help from the bench is needed.

But that’s not even the end of the floor that is the Cavs real problem. Defensively the Cavaliers recognition and communication has been dreadful, and the passing and player movement of the Celtics has carved them up. Cleveland has outscored teams and not defended all that well for a long time now — that’s how they made the Finals a season ago — but it’s not enough now. The offense and LeBron can’t carry them all the way.

We’ll see after Game 3 if LeBron is going to be able to get any sleep Saturday night.