The Bulls, despite an OK record in the East, have not had a good year. We didn't really need to type that. You know already. The Bulls are bad defensively and ugly offensively; their rookie coach is very obviously in over his head; and injuries have kept the entire team from playing together or congealing or doing anything that remotely resembles good basketball. It has been a tough year to be a Bulls fan, and it's not anywhere close to being over.
How does John Paxson feel? After all, he's the GM responsible for the team, and he's been pretty quiet all season. Is he as frustrated as Bulls fans? Does he recognize the deficiencies here? Does watching Bulls basketball occasionally make him want to punch a small child, too? Thankfully, yes. Paxson gets it:
On the Bulls' play: "I'm obviously not happy. I don't think my expectations were such going into the season thinking we were going to be a top-level team. But what I want to see is the team play together. And right now, through 40-plus games, we're not doing that. And that concerns me."
On the inability to close out games: "We're not very good right now. We're not playing well enough to win those games. … The turnovers we had throwing the ball away in the backcourt, it's just concentration and focus. I'm not going to say I'm pleased we've been competing better because we want to win. I don't like where we're at. I don't think anybody does."
That's just the general "I'm not happy" stuff; Paxson goes into more detail on the subject of a Bulls trade (there are options they're pursuing, but they are encountering issues with matching other teams' luxury tax woes) the defense (the commitment to the scheme isn't there, nor is there a scheme to commit to) and whether the Bulls clear cap space for 2010 and try to sign a marquee free agent (maybe, maybe not).
One thing Paxson wouldn't do is criticize Vinny Del Negro. When asked about his young coach, Paxson deflected the question, saying "The only person I'll evaluate right now is myself, and I obviously haven't done the job of putting the type of team I want on the floor in terms of competitiveness and effort. That falls on me." So, no, he's not yet willing to publicly criticize Del Negro, but that doesn't mean such criticisms aren't happening interally. If Paxson is this displeased in front of the media, we can only imagine what from office meetings must be like.