The Rise and Fall of John Paxson

January 30, 2008 | Comments (0) | by Jake the Terrible Cubs Fan

Written by Max Foncito

It sucks to have to call out someone responsible for hitting one of the greatest shots in Bulls history, but the time has come for Paxson to grow a set of nuts and save his job.

Paxson was hired to replace the fat, delusional and past his prime Jerry Krause. As we all know, Krause was one of the most brilliant minds in the NBA and was responsible for surrounding Jordan with players like Pippen, Grant, Armstrong, Kukoc, and even Paxson himself in 1985.

Somewhere along the line Krause thought himself to be king, bought into his own hype and thought he could create a championship team without Jordan, Phil Jackson and the rest of the cast. He made a series of bad moves post-Jordan, the worst of which were the moves he couldn’t make. He couldn’t land any high profile free agents such as Tracy McGrady despite a boatload of cash and the third biggest market in the NBA, and he hired Tim Floyd. Eddy Curry turned out to be a lazy, fat pig and Tyson Chandler couldn’t develop in time. Enough said.

Krause stepped down in 2003 and Paxson was brought on board to put the Bulls back on the championship path. He inherited four talented but underachieving players in Eddy Curry, Tyson Chandler, Jamal Crawford and Jason Williams.

Paxson had immediate success in making savvy deals and smart draft picks. He went away from picking raw talent out of high school and instead picked up players from legendary winning college programs. His first pick was Kirk Hinrich, a four year starter out of Kansas.

2004 was a banner year for Paxson. He drafted Ben Gordon, traded for the rights to Luol Deng and picked up Chris Duhon in the second round. Soon after the draft he offloaded the cancer of Jamal Crawford for a bunch of expiring contracts.

Paxson continued to make shrewd moves in 2005 despite not having a pick in the draft as he gang raped Zeke once again. The trade of a fat and broken Eddy Curry for cap space, a number one unprotected pick and the right to swap picks in 2007 was one of legend. Pax turned nothing into a big something.

The Bulls were looking like a future contender, had stockpiled high draft picks and more importantly had tons of cap room. 2006 and beyond looked like it would be back to contending for championships.

Unfortunately, it has been all downhill from there. It wasn’t apparent at the time, but many of the moves Paxson was about to make (and didn’t make) would send the team on a downward spiral that will be tough to recover from. Here are those moves:

Awful Move #1: Trading a 25 year old Tyson Chandler in anticipation of signing a 31 year old Ben Wallace.
Chandler was a player who had a maturity problem and was terrible offensively, but played his ass off and rebounded like a machine. He was a very young, skinny big man who was growing into his frame. At the time of the trade he was 23 years old and his contract was EXTREMELY reasonable ($10 million per season) considering what other centers had recently been signed for. The fact that he didn’t get enough minutes (27 per game) didn’t help either. Chandler has gone on to be a Team USA and All-Star caliber player for the second best team in the league.

Awful Move #2: Signing Ben Wallace for $14 million of the $16.7 million dollar cap space.
It looked like a brilliant steal at first. The Bulls got rid of a player who hadn’t developed quite fast enough and signed the 3 time Defensive Player of the Year from their main rival. In reality, they signed an over the hill player who was looking for a huge payday and an escape from Flip Saunders. Ben Wallace from day one had no intention playing with the same fire that he became famous for in Detroit. He shunned being named a captain, threw a fit over not being able to wear a headband and just looked like he had more interest in spending his money than playing basketball.

Awful Move #3: Trading the rights of LaMarcus Aldridge for Tyrus Thomas.
This also looked like a good move. Thomas started out the 2006 season as a high flying stud and Aldridge spent it injured. Fast forward to 2007 and Aldridge looks like a future All-Star and Thomas looks more like Darius Miles.

Awful Move #4: Flirting with Pau Gasol instead of trading for him.
The thing the Bulls lack most is a low post threat. Gasol would have been the answer the Bulls were looking for, but Paxson was unwilling to give up any value to bring him to Chicago. Instead of leaving it alone, it continued to appear week after week in the papers and on the news and affected the team negatively.

Awful Move #5: Flirting with Kobe instead of trading for him (even though they never had a chance).
This trade never had a prayer given the fact that Kobe has the ultimate no-trade clause and wouldn’t have approved any package the Bulls wanted to send. He didn’t want to end up on the Lakers Midwest when Paxson would have gutted the team. The non-trade was the final straw that broke the camel’s back. Due to this, Ben Gordon and Luol Deng pass up extensions.

So, the question is what the hell can Paxson do to save his job and the Bulls? Lucky for him he has a lot young talent and can make trades to right the ship. It won’t be easy, but Danny Ainge proved that you can make a diamond out of a lump of coal. Paxson has a decision to make, does he want to end up like Danny Ainge or this guy?