Rose or Beasley, Beasley or Rose?.. A coach?.. Pizza?.. Bulls GM Paxson just can’t decide

John Paxson in more certain timesSATURDAY EVENING, Celtics-Pistons tipoff less than an hour away. I was getting ready to run to the grocery store before missing any of the pregame when the telephone rang. It was Chicago Bulls GM John Paxson.

“J-Mo, do you have that money I lent you last month? Jerry Reinsdorf cut off my expense account again.”

“Huh? Pax, that was 17 years ago, and I won it back. Remember our three-point shootout?”

“You won that?”

“I have witnesses.”

“Why’s your number still in my phone?”

“Why’d you call it? This is a Bucks blog line.”

“I don’t know. I felt like calling somebody, but I couldn’t decide who to call.”

“Why didn’t you just call for pizza delivery? … [pause] … [no answer from Paxson] … [Still pausing] … Umm, Pax? Hey, congratulations on winning the lottery. It doesn’t make up for two decades of Bears quarterbacks or Eddie Curry, but the people of Chicago’ave gotta to be at least half happy about your dumb luck.”

“Yeah, thanks. I’m still in shock to tell you the truth. I still don’t know what to say, especially about the Bears quarterbacks.”

“Please, don’t say anything about Bears quarterbacks. But what about the ultimate question, Pax? Who’s it gonna be? Michael Beasley or Derrick Rose?”

“I dunno. I guess I’ll decide after I get them both in here for workouts. I won’t decide until then.”

“Is that really necessary? I don’t think Beasley and Rose are lying on their resumes. Rose could be the second coming of Chris Paul, if only because every team wants a CP3 or Deron of their very own and this requires a second coming. Beasley’s a good-sized forward who loves the paint — you know how rare that is nowadays. None of that’s going to change at the workouts. The only thing that matters is who you think helps you more.”

Beasley vs. Wisconsin in the tournament:

“It’s just …. such a tough choice.”

“Well, you haven’t had a low post scorer in Chicago since, since … Bill Cartwright? … Artis Gilmore? I’m gonna say Artis.”

“Artis? You know that’s not true.”

“Artis is funnier. Like the first coming of Ben Wallace. I’m trying to make a point.”

“What is your point, J-Mo?”

“Beasley’s the point. Most of your talent is at the guard spot – four players. If you draft Rose, you’ll get better eventually but in the meantime, you’ll be back to having a rookie point guard again, five years after Kirk Hinrich — and you still won’t have a low post scorer for your rookie to pass to.”

“I have Drew Gooden. He’s maybe more of a post-up guy than Beasley. Gooden’s 6′ 10″ and he’s only 26.”

“Gooden? Please! Beasley’s all over the court. He’s the All-World version of Nocioni, loves to scrap and rebound. Nocioni you just trade to make your fans happy and you’re back in the playoffs. Just make sure Noah doesn’t shoot, try to coach, talk to the media or drink in front of Florida cops when he’s stoned. … By the way, going through your roster, you had NO business being in the lottery.”

“I don’t know about that. This season … everything just got so ….”

Rose vs. Georgetown, Dec. 2007

“Pax, if you draft Rose, it’s the same as making a decision about Hinrich. You’d be saying, ‘Kirk, I know that when you signed your contract we said you were imperative to the foundation of the organization, etc., etc., but we don’t think you can lead us to the next level. Thanks for the memories.'”

“Did I really say that?”

“Yes, you did. ‘Imperative to the foundation of the organization.’ And then some stuff about ‘character and commitment.’ It’s on your website, October 2006.”

“You know, Kirk was the only guy who signed the extension I offered him. Gordon and Deng wouldn’t do it and now they’re free agents. I don’t know what to do with them.”

“Well, you were trying to trade them. Or someone. Did you ever decide who were going to trade?”

“No, no, I never did decide. But I knew I wanted Kevin Garnett. And then Kobe wanted to be a Bull. I don’t know what that was all about. But Kirk, you know, he made a commitment … and it’s such a good contract too. Four more years, $36.5 million, fair for both parties. I don’t want to devalue that …”

“So just draft Beasley and you’ve still got Hinrich, Duhon, Gordon and Hughes. You can always trade one or two of them later. You’ve got too many good guards already Pax. And the ‘draft the best player available’ NBA wisdom – the Jordan rule – forget it this year. It’s entirely debatable whether Beasley is the best player available or whether Rose is better. In this case, draft for bigger need.”

“I dunno J-Mo. You make it sound so easy.”

“It is easy. We’re learning that lesson up here in Milwaukee with John Hammond and this ‘Detroit Way’ of his. Make a decision and get on with it — ‘Just like me and Joe did in Detroit,’ he says – before the competition even has time to pick up the telephone. Some fans don’t like it, but most seem to find it kind of liberating. We’ve got a full coaching staff already. Bucks coaches are watching film, evaluating players, going to China to check up on Yi … Hammond is already working on trades. While other teams …”

“Can’t even hire a coach. Just say it, I know. Look, I had D’Antoni hired. I thought that was done. Reinsdorf dawdled.”

“Dawdling seems to be part of corporate Bulls culture. What happened to Carlisle? I thought he was your defensive coach.”

“He was the Chicago Sun Times’ coach, J-Mo. Our columnists are bigger idiots than you are. I never made a decision. I talked to Carlisle, he said he wanted to wait. I said that was fine with me, so we waited. I’m still waiting.”

“Pax, he took another job. He works for the Dallas Mavs now. What were you doing, feeding the pigeons under the ELL?”

What are we doing Pax?“Not with Carlisle, but with Avery, yeah. It was fun. We spent a few days feeding the pigeons and I thought we were building a relationship. I was about to hire him.”

“And then you postponed the interview, Avery got tired of waiting and went home. Pax, you’ve got to start making decisions. Your head coach candidates have dwindled down to the assistants and guys who’ve never coached at all. I read you’re planning to interview Eric Snow?!”

“Well, maybe. I’ll decide on that soon. I will. They are all such good candidates. It’s just been … such a tough decision. And now this lottery thing … Why do we have to choose first?”

“You shouldn’t have been in the lottery at all!!!!”  

“I mean, I like Beasley and I can’t find a knock on him, even if he turns out to be only 6′ 8″, but, I just don’t know. … I guess I don’t like our guards as much as I used to.”

“Well, then draft Rose and make a deal for a power forward who can score. We have two in Milwaukee, Yi and Charlie Villanueva. You’ve got enough talent to make a good trade.”

“I … I dunno. Yi has great upside. He’s a great athlete and can shoot, and we have a substantial Chinese population in Chicago. It would make people happy. I can picture Deng and Yi running the floor with Derrick Rose. It would be beautiful. …”

“Yi’s not really on the market, Pax, unless you risk your job and make an offer the Bucks can’t refuse. That’s one less decision to make, in any case. Draft Rose and maybe the Bucks will deal you Charlie V … and Mo Williams.”

“No, J-Mo … Charlie’s OK, but he’s so soft. Where did he learn to play power forward like that? Is he afraid of the paint, or does he just not like Bogut?  He seems to be a decent enough player when he remembers to play near the basket … I dunno. There’s always Gooden. And I am going to ignore that Mo Williams crack. I’ve got four guards just as good or better than Williams and my guys play defense.”

“There. That almost sounded like a decision. Are you saying, ‘No’?”

“I guess so.”

“So draft Beasley and you can keep your guards until a later date.”

“But Rose is from Chicago and the fans seem to want him … You know, that whole Chris Paul thing. And we need a leader …”

“Rose is 19. He can’t even buy beer much less lead.”

“It’s just … such a tough decision.”

“Don’t sweat it, Pax. You might as well wait until you hire a coach before you make a final decision anyway. The coach will want some input, right? So who’s it going to be?”

“We’re talking to Corbin, and I’m going to wait until I talk to a few more before I decide. … There are so many good coaches out there. Detroit still won’t let me talk to Michael Curry. And Tom Thibodeaux’s still in the playoffs, too, with Boston … It’s just … such a–“

“Pax, why did you fire Scott Skiles anyway?”

“I didn’t fire him. I told him I wanted to wait a little while to see if things turned around and …”

“He didn’t want to wait, did he?”

“He basically fired himself J-Mo, right on the spot. Gave himself a nice buyout too. It was just … such a…

About 9 minutes into the first quarter of the Celtics-Pistons game, Doc Rivers goes to his bench and for the first time in four games, SAM CASSELL HAS ENTERED THE GAME FOR THE CELTICS … 

“tough …”

“Pax, I gotta go. My guy Sam’s in the game.”

“… decision.”


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