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Exec John Paxson: Jimmy Butler not on trade block

Exec John Paxson Jimmy Butler not on trade block

In the most Chicago Bulls fashion, team executive John Paxson continued to confuse everyone about what they intend to do for the future for their team, or how to deal with their star wingman Jimmy Butler.

Ever since the Bulls’ season ended with Rajon Rondo’s unfortunate injury in their series loss to Boston in the first round of the playoffs, rumors of Chicago going into rebuild mode have begun to circle, and with it, trade talks about their three-time All-Star Butler.

“We are not looking to trade Jimmy Butler,” said Paxson in an interview with ESPN 1000 in Chicago, implying that the five-year pro from Marquette will be involved with the Bulls’ makeover in the next few seasons.

But a day before his interview, the executive was noncommittal on Butler’s future with the Illinois club, though he wasn’t even clear on anyone’s future with the Bulls.

“We’ve got a lot of guys under contract,” said Paxson in an article from AP. “The landscape is such that to make significant change right now will be difficult.”

“You always have to keep things open,” stated the 56-year-old former coach and player.

THORNY

Everyone thought that the Bulls will tank this season after Derrick Rose left his boyhood club and signed with the New York Knicks, but Paxson and general manager Gar Forman tried to stay competitive and signed two big veteran free agents in Chicago-native Dwyane Wade and point guard Rondo.

But not everything clicked, and they even had situations where the team got divided into factions and started bickering in social media. On their way to a mediocre 41-41 eighth seed finish in the Eastern Conference, Butler and Wade once slammed their young teammates and accused them of slacking through a difficult season, prompting Rondo to defend the young guys and barbed at Butler and Wade for washing the team’s dirty laundry in public.

Things got better once the playoffs got nearer, and they started winning more. They won nine of their last 12 games entering the playoffs, and even stunned the top-seeded Celtics in the first two games of the first round behind Rondo’s knowledge of his former team’s playbook and Butler’s two-way excellence. But Rondo suffered a thumb injury, and the rest, as they say, is another painful chapter in Chicago’s recent history.

TANGLED

Now the team executives are tasked to choose between staying with Butler, or trading him for young pieces and convince Rondo to help with the growth of their young players.

“I can’t underscore the positives for Rondo being with our young guys,” said Paxson. “Inside the building, we understand how important that was. It started last summer when he started hanging with our guys in summer league. To be candid with you, when we had that incident where Dwyane and Jimmy spoke up in January, when he stood up for our young guys, that empowered them a little bit.”

But trading Butler and convincing Rondo to stay in a developing team might be a task easier said than done, since Butler does not fit the mold of today’s most courted stars and Rondo is a 31-year-old vet looking for championships.

Butler scored a career-high 23.9 points per game last season, along with career-bests of 6.2 rebounds and 5.5 assists, and he even shot with efficiency at 45% from the field and 36.7% from deep. But his game is not made for today’s pace-and-space basketball, and he will be just into year-three of a five-year, $92 million contract, meaning teams will be weary of his mediocre shot and Chicago will ask a high selling price because Butler is on a relatively cheap contract.

Rondo can be waived before the end of June, but with his importance to the Bulls’ youth development, it is unclear whether Chicago will eat up his $13 million salary in a rebuilding year.
Aside from those two stars, Wade will also be owed $23.8 million next season, and center Robin Lopez will cost $13.7 million.

With just eight teams remaining in the NBA playoffs and the NBA Draft just around the corner, Chicago’s future plans might get clearer, but until that time comes, get ready for more confusing words from the Gar-Pax executive duo of the Bulls.