Bulls state the obvious: The rebuild could be going better
John Paxson and Gar Forman sat down to provide a post-trade deadline "State of the Rebuild" address on Thursday at the Advocate Center.
Really, though, there wasn't any new information. Management is excited about the team's future, despite no sign of the darkness lifting and playoffs returning to the United Center. A little draft lottery luck in May will make everyone look smarter.
The explanation for Wednesday's trade was put in simple terms. Why re-sign Bobby Portis to be a backup when Otto Porter Jr. can fill a position of need at small forward? And so what if Porter is owed $55.7 million over the next two seasons and his scoring numbers were below Portis this season?
"Is he making a lot of money? Of course he is. A lot of players in our league are making a lot of money," Paxson said.
By taking on Porter's expensive deal, the Bulls will cut their available cap space this summer from roughly $40 million to $20 million. Regarding this development, Paxson stated the obvious -- Kevin Durant and Kawhi Leonard aren't walking through that door for a recruiting visit on July 1.
"We're not in the position to go after the big names, the franchise-changers," Paxson said. "We're looking at things realistically."
The Bulls do plan on using some of that money to add veteran role players this summer. It might help that Porter, 25, will be the oldest, most experienced player in the future starting five of Lauri Markkanen, Wendell Carter Jr., Zach LaVine and Kris Dunn.
"This year it's been more painful than we thought, just given when we started Day 1 -- we were healthy, we were excited, those types of things," Paxson said. "Those things have changed over time. And when our guys have been together, candidly we probably haven't played at the level you would hope."
There were a couple of items that qualified as minor news. Paxson said there are currently no plans to buy out the contract of veteran center Robin Lopez, but things can always change. As expected, Paxson and Forman gave a firm endorsement of head coach Jim Boylen.
No one should be surprised by this. Paxson tends to get frustrated quickly with his head coaches, but moving on from Boylen would speak poorly of the unexpected decision to fire Fred Hoiberg on Dec. 3. So unless something crazy happens, count on Boylen coaching the Bulls into next season.
At least there can be some meaningful evaluation of Boylen during the remainder of the season as Porter is incorporated into the lineup. Barring another major injury, of course.
"That first week with the whole Boston game (a franchise-record 56-point loss) was a bad way to start, but when you're in it with him every day you see his passion, his commitment, and the care he has for his players and our organization," Paxson said. "So we feel he's doing the right things.
"He's trying to get our guys to understand what being a professional is, and to play hard every night and practice hard every day. So we're doing fine with Jim. We're on a good page there."
Paxson and Forman rehashed the Jabari Parker signing one more time and that story hasn't changed. The Bulls thought bringing Parker to his hometown on essentially a one-year, $20-million deal was a risk worth taking. It didn't work, obviously, but Parker's contract helped make the Porter trade happen.
"We accept responsibility for the all the moves we make," Paxson said. "The Jabari issue, that's our responsibility. … We've learned from it. We made a deal that we feel long-term helps us."
Another complaint that could be made about the Porter trade is what happens if the Bulls get the No. 2 pick in the draft, miss out on Zion Williamson, but get a consolation prize of R.J. Barrett? If that happens, they have a new small forward of the future with Porter already on board. Why not wait for the summer to make a move like that?
"We still have a lot of holes to fill," Forman said. "Obviously, we need more talent and more depth and thus looking ahead the draft wasn't a huge consideration."
The Bulls can feel good about Markkanen scoring 30 points in consecutive games, but the "State of the Rebuild" will remain bleak -- at least until May 14, the night of the draft lottery.
Bulls vs. Brooklyn Nets, 6:30 p.m. Friday at the Barclays Center
TV: NBCSCH • Radio: WSCR 670-AM
Outlook: This will be the Bulls' second trip to Brooklyn in 11 days. They lost 122-117 Jan. 29 as Nets PG D'Angelo Russell scored 30 points. ... Russell is averaging 19.8 points and 6.5 assists. Second-leading scorer Caris Levert (18.4 ppg) is expected to return from an ankle injury suffered Nov. 12. Third-leading scorer Spencer Dinwiddie is out after having thumb surgery. ... The Bulls have lost six in a row in the series and four straight at Brooklyn. ... The Nets (29-27) snapped a three-game losing streak by beating Denver Wednesday, but have gone 21-9 since Dec. 7.
Next: Washington Wizards, 7 p.m. Saturday at the United Center.
-- Mike McGraw