Paxson Talks to Media After Slower than Expected Start

John Paxson didn't expect to be offering explanations, clarifications and a mini state of the team overview a third of the way into the 2019-20 NBA season. But the Bulls Executive Vice President of Basketball Operations didn't anticipate this 10-18 start even with Saturday's first win over a plus-500 team this season, the Bulls dramatic victory over the Los Angeles Clippers. Top franchise executives don't usually sit for media sessions early in the season unless there's a trade or some major occurrence. The ebb and flow of a season usually prevails. But this has been a somewhat unusual season, if only for the hot summer anticipation that has been doused by an erratic and unsuccessful first two months. So Paxson Saturday before the game with the Clippers met with various Chicago media members to answer pressing questions about the team. Here are his comments to Bulls.com.

How would you rate the performance of your coach and the job he has done so far given the team's start?

Paxson: "I don't get into rating performance. What I will tell you is we are committed to Jim. We support our coach. We're not thinking of making any changes. Jim is a grinder. He's going to keep grinding. One thing I respect immensely about him is his willingness to communicate, to listen and discuss ideas. I see a lot of things that are being taught and emphasized that aren't consistently translating to games. I see it on the practice floor, I see it in the film room. It's not consistently translating to games. An example was the Lakers game. We played one of the best teams in the league three quarters, playing excellent basketball and then it got away from us. It's not consistent at all. Now, why is that? I think players are trying to find their way in this offense. They still are trying to find what is a good shot versus a bad shot, where are the opportunities to drive and score. I think they probably are thinking instead of reacting and playing instinctually, which is something that we learned in the triangle. My reference point was the triangle. We weren't always instinctive in the triangle right off the bat. I'm not comparing offensive systems, but that's a part of it.

"Even though Lauri (Markkanen) has played better the last probably five or six games, we didn't anticipate him shooting open threes the way he shot them. He's a better shooter than that; we believe that. The hope is as we stay consistent with what we are teaching we grow out of that offensively. As long as the right things are emphasized, then hopefully that does turn around and you gain some confidence. I see a lack of confidence a lot of times from our guys when the shots are not going in; that plays a part, especially with young kids."

So then do you feel you overestimated and overvalued the talent and maybe this team isn't as good as you thought?

Paxson: "I believe we have talent. It's not talent that has a lot of experience. What we have to do is continue to develop these guys because, for instance, I feel Wendell (Carter Jr.) has a chance to be a really good player. I really do. I think he's got a skill level that he's just going to grow. I feel the same way about Lauri, about Zach (LaVine), about Coby (White). But it's fair to ask the question because we are where we're not winning games and at some point players have to look inside themselves, too, just as we all do, the coaches do. They have to look inside themselves to say what can I do to help turn this thing around."

What is your message to your season ticket holders and your fans who were excited this summer about the team and now experienced this level of disappointment with the slow start?

Paxson: "I am sympathetic to our fan base. The thing I've always believed and I said this to our team the first day of training camp, ‘If you guys go out and compete and play hard, our fans will respect you and appreciate the way you play.' So I'm disappointed that they aren't seeing us that way. I am disappointed about the results. There's not a quick fix. We've invested in a lot of young players and it's our responsibility to get them better and the hope is they will improve as this year goes along and we can see some real growth and that translates to wins on the floor."

Can this team still make a turnaround this season and play for the things you talked about in at least competing into April and for the playoffs?

"We didn't just throw that out there at the beginning of the year. We threw that out there because we thought we had... there's no question we have more talent on this roster than we've had the last couple of years. No question. After the summer we had and the September (workouts) we had as a team, I thought we would have been (diminishing) our own players to say we're not trying to compete for the playoffs. Things can turn around, but we're going to have to shoot the ball better, we're going to have to be a better offensive team in order to do that. And our guys are going to have to step it up. But it all goes hand in hand. Jim and his staff are going to have to continue to try to find their rhythm as a group and put our players in position to succeed. That's obviously a coach's responsibility and that's what they have to look internally at and try to do."

How much of this is on you? How much is your responsibility?

Paxson: "I accept all the responsibility. It all starts with me. I own it all. I accept it all."

What does that mean?

Paxson: "It means I'm responsible for it and I'm working toward solutions. But I understand; whatever we've done it's a reflection of me. I get that and I'm working to change it."