Bulls mailbag: Status of the front office search? John Paxson and Gar Forman's roles?


When can Bulls overhaul their front office? Do the playoffs have to be completed? Will any interviews or hires not happen now until August or September? - @ashamedbullsfan, via Twitter

First, that’s a pretty amazing Twitter handle. Second, this is one of many, many subplots to the great unknown the NBA is experiencing.

The Bulls can ask for permission to interview candidates whenever they want. In fact, with the league ground to a halt, this could be an opportunity for Michael Reinsdorf. I’d guess he’d show some initial sensitivity to the unprecedented nature of this situation. However, the league will be idle for awhile. So he could begin to act after seeking input from a wide variety of sources on a wide variety of candidates. As previously reported, he is doing this search solo for now. But everything is in flux. Nobody knows when the season will resume, much less when the draft will be.

Regarding the front office changes, are there any more names of candidates and roles? - Tim G.

This is about building depth and youth in a front office that has fallen behind the times. This is about modernizing the front office, and, as previously reported, the specific structure has yet to be determined. The only thing that’s certain is that the organization wants to build depth and get more modern.

The Sam Presti situation has been previously covered in this space. A brief recap: There’s no guarantee he would want to leave the Thunder. And even if he would, the Bulls historically haven’t spent the upwards of $8, $9 or $10 million it would take to land him. He’d also almost certainly want to bring some of his close associates, so it would actually cost more. Obviously, if Presti and the Bulls show mutual interest and the Bulls display a willingness to pay, things could change.

But my focus has been more on the Bulls making multiple hires and targeting respected No. 2s or young executives who are considered on a rising trajectory. This isn’t a short list. But it’s an instructional one. Think people like the Pacers’ Chad Buchanan, the Nuggets’ Arturas Karnisovas, the Heat’s Adam Simon, the Jazz’s Justin Zanik, the Clippers’ Michael Winger, the Thunder’s Troy Weaver and Nazr Mohammed, the Warriors’ Mike Dunleavy, the Raptors’ Bobby Webster, the Magic’s Matt Lloyd. I’m sure there are others.

Are the Reinsdorfs aware of the national and local perception of their team? It seems like everyone is frustrated with this franchise except the people in charge. Why should fans trust them to do anything proactive? @BullDumb, via Twitter

Man, the Twitter handles today. I’ve written this before, but just watch Michael Reinsdorf during a game. He was sitting courtside at the March 8 game in Brooklyn against the Nets and he reacted to several plays — good and bad — with the emotion of a longtime season-ticket holder. They’re aware of the perception, and they’re frustrated.

It should be noted that even though some fans have been frustrated for awhile, this is the first season where internally they’ve felt matters strayed. The decision to trade Jimmy Butler was a collective one, and the franchise knew it would involve an initial step backwards. This is the season, both publicly and privately, the organization pointed towards as one where progress would be tangible. And their offseason moves drew widespread praise.

That the Bulls endured another underwhelming, injury-filled season is why the offseason changes are coming. And they’re coming, whether you trust them to be or not.

What will John Paxson and Gar Forman be doing once the front office overhaul is complete? – Tom T.

That’s a big TBD. As previously reported, Paxson initiated a lot of the talks for this change and will play as big or as small a role as is viewed necessary by ownership and the most significant new hire. Forman has been busy scouting. In fact, he was at a conference tournament to cap an extremely busy stretch of travel for him when COVID-19 shut down the sports world. He’s valued internally for his scouting and likely will be asked to stay on in that role if he chooses.

Has Zach LaVine reached his ceiling in your opinion? – Joe M.

This is obviously a subjective question, and there are subtle ways to assess it. But I think this season proved he can grow at both ends. His decision-making improved. His off-the-ball defense initially improved before showing some recent slippage. Jim Boylen challenged him to become a better two-way player, and LaVine always puts in tons of offseason work on his own. I think there’s another level he can reach.

My 12- and 9-year-olds are currently doing their e-learning for school. They were wondering which Bulls player would make a great teacher. - Michelle S.

First, this lands on the short list for best question I’ve ever received. And I’ve been doing Bulls mailbags since 1996.

I’ve been fortunate to cover plenty of extremely smart athletes. The 2003-04 season may have been a tough one on the court as John Paxson began to shape the team in his vision after taking over for Jerry Krause. But off it, it was a revelation for me as I got to talk basketball daily with Scottie Pippen away from the media masses. I had covered Pippen during the second three-peat and always found his basketball IQ to be extremely high. But there was so much media around those teams that I didn’t get the more intimate breakdown I did during that 2003-04 season. What a treat to talk basketball with him one-on-one on more days than not.

Mike Dunleavy is another player who always saw the game in an educational manner and distilled it well in interviews.

I assume you’re asking about current players. I’d have to say Thad Young. Not only is he a 13-year veteran, but he’s very honest and forthright in his comments.

Who’s been your favorite Bulls player you have ever covered? - Hamza B.

I’ve said and written this before, but it’s Joakim Noah. Again, I’m lucky to have covered a lot of very interesting and cool athletes. But Noah to me combined a wonderful mixture of worldliness, honesty, passion, humor, intelligence and accessibility. You can’t ask for much more as a beat writer.

Is there any chance Derrick Rose can come back home and win us a championship, possibly (an) MVP again? Lisa C., via Twitter

Never say never, but the combination of a return home, a title and an MVP is about as close as it gets.

As a reporter, what one player do you want the Bulls to sign, and why? - David L.

Giannis in 2021. Because I enjoy watching greatness. And I notice you didn’t ask anything about the feasibility of such a scenario.

Thanks for all your questions. Talk to you soon.

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