I spoke with GM John Paxson today on The Mully and Hanley Show on WSCR. Pax addressed a number of topics through the interview including the team's injuries, lineup, playoff prospects and trade possibilities.
Pax said Thabo Sefolsoha's recent play will keep him in the starting five even after the team gets guards Kirk Hinrich (bruised rib), Ben Gordon (sprained right wrist), and Chris Duhon (bruised knee) completely healthy:
``If we can ever get healthy, I honestly don't see Thabo leaving the starting lineup. He gives us a dimension with his length and size we haven't had. He's got a future in this league. He still has to address obvious areas; his shot has not been consistent. Though with playing time, he's shooting it more confidently. He has to play little more under control. But those things come with experience.''
Paxson on the injuries of Gordon and Luol Deng (Achilles tendonitis) and when they will be back:
``I can't answer for them. What I've learned in my 25 years since I started playing in the league is that you have to listen to players and believe what they tell you about their bodies and their injuries. . . .You can't tell a player to play. We do all the medical stuff. . .everything we can do. At the end of the day, we really have no power to tell a player that you have to go out on the floor. Obviously, given the fact that Ben and Luol didn't get their [contract] extensions done, and the fact that we're not playing well this year, obviously fans want to know what the deal is. In the case of Luol, he had swelling in his Achilles. We at the position with him, with the All-Star break coming up next week, that rest was the big thing to get the swelling out and let the tendon heal. He's going to get a repeat MRI when we get back from this trip. But with just two home games before the break, rest was the key. It makes no sense to bring him back. We feel we're giving him the appropriate time off of it. Hopefully, that will allow him to play the last 30 games of the year. Again, there's not guarantee there.
``We have to get healthy first. My target date is right after the All-Star break (Feb. 15-17). I hope that with 30 games left we will have Gordon back, Deng back. My understanding is Ben Gordon is day to day. I'm going to try and touch base with him today and talk to him about what he's thinking.''
On making the playoffs:
``With 30 games left, you always owe it to your fans and yourself to compete and play as hard as you can. I'm the most disappointed guy in the world right now. Going into the season, obviously there were huge expectations--and I don't know what that meant--but I certainly felt given another year of maturity of our guys and adding Joe Smith and Joakim Noah that we were deeper and more talented. I honestly believed that. But something happened at the beginning of the year--whether it was those contracts or whatever--the vibe and mindset have not been the same. I think we can develop our young guys--Thabo's going to play minutes, Tyrus [Thomas] is going to play minutes--but I think we can also satisfy trying to get into the playoffs. You've got to try and win. I will never feel otherwise.''
Pax on trade possibilities before the league's Feb. 21 deadline:
``We're not dealing from a great position right now. The big contracts that we have outside of Ben Wallace are [Andres] Nocioni and Kirk Hinrich. And both of those guys are base year players, which they're a little more difficult to move unless you build up a deal that's really, really big. So not to say that we can't do anything, but those inhibit you a little bit in the way you go about your business.
``So I think what we continue to toss around is: Can we make a deal that significantly improves us? If not, we may have to weight until the summer to address a lot of these concerns, just given the contract status. I know it's difficult for fans and for all of us in the organization to have this type of year after the year we had last year, but we can't afford to do something just for the sake of doing it. We won't operate that way. But if we feel the direction moving forward dictates we make a move, then we obviously will.''
Paxson on his trade talks with Memphis for Pau Gasol:
``I know that a lot gets put out there. Last year we were in a position when we were discussing a Gasol deal, we had an expiring contract with P.J. [Brown], a big one much like Kwame Brown. But they had a different mindset then; their ownership had not decided that they wanted to make a money deal at that point. So, in some ways, our timing was not right with the contracts we had. Look, fans don't want to hear that stuff. They want to see you do something and get better. But I don't think any fan would want us to move a player if we didn't get something back that made a lot of sense. I think right now what a lot of teams are doing is they're looking at our roster and they're saying to themselves: [the Bulls] have had a bad year, maybe they're down on their guys, maybe we can sneak in and get something that will help us but not necessarily help the Bulls.
``So there's not an easy answer here. But I'm on the phone a lot with people and doing a lot of talking trying to get something done. It is frustrating when you feel like you can't do something to improve the organization. We also can't go out there and make a poor deal that doesn't help you in any way, shape, or form.''