Former Chicago Bulls player, general manager and Vice President of Basketball Operations John Paxson was a guest on Stacey King and Mark Schanowski’s Gimme The Hot Sauce podcast on Thursday.
Quite honestly, you’d be hard pressed to find a more informative or candid interview with an ex-player and front office person. Paxson went from being one of the most beloved players in team history to the target of many Bulls fans’ rage over the team’s mediocrity.
It is a tough situation filled with uncomfortable moments. During the truly fascinating interview, Paxson talked about the 2 toughest moments during his tenure in the Bulls’ front office.
John Paxson Talks About the Difficulty Around the Jay Williams Situation
Jay Williams is subject of some of the biggest “what-if” scenarios in Bulls history. Chicago drafted the Duke star No. 2 overall in 2002.
Williams had an up-and-down rookie season, but by the end of the campaign, it appeared he was set to make a big jump in his second year in the league.
Unfortunately, he was injured in a horrific motorcycle accident that essentially ended his career. Paxson talked about navigating the accident, which happened in 2003, his first year on the job.
I will tell you the two toughest things that I dealt with and I mentioned the Jay Williams one. That was really hard right out the gate because Jay is a really good guy. I can’t even imagine going through what he had to go through during that time. He almost lost part of his leg, it was that bad. The Duke family really rallied around him and protected him, took him down to Durham to the medical faculties down there. We didn’t get a ton of information over that time, but you look back and you understand why. They were really trying to protect him.
We’ll never know what might have happened in that chapter of Bulls history had Williams not gotten hurt. Quite honestly, a better Williams would probably have meant no Kirk Hinrich or even Derrick Rose.
Paxson Talks About the Eddy Curry Situation
Another big what-if in Bulls history is associated with the development of Eddy Curry and Tyson Chandler.
The Bulls traded Elton Brand for the No. 2 pick in the 2001 NBA Draft, which they used to select Tyson Chandler. The Bulls already had the No. 4 pick, and they used that selection to take another high school star in Eddy Curry.
I always thought that if you could combine Chandler’s work ethic, demeanor, rebounding and defensive prowess with Curry’s post skills and strength, the Bulls would have had the best center in the NBA.
Unfortunately, that’s an NBA 2K experiment and not real life. In reality, Chandler was an offensively-challenged big man who blocked shots, ran the floor and finished well, but who needed a point guard like Chris Paul with the New Orleans Hornets to help him find his niche.
Curry was a talented offensive player who didn’t have the mental makeup to take advantage of his immense potential. He also had a heart issue, per the Bulls doctors, and that situation was among the toughest Paxson had to handle as a general manager.
Paxson talked a lot about Curry during the interview. He said:
We went through a situation with Eddy Curry that we followed our doctors advice. He had a little arrhythmia issue in a game down in Charlotte. There was a time Jerry and I sat together and said we want to be good to this young man. Putting him in a Chicago Bulls uniform, kind of following what the doctors had told us, it really scared us, for the kid and for the organization. That was tough. I can’t tell you the amount of time we spent on Eddy and trying to work through all those issues. We ultimately moved him to New York and he got a huge payday, which was great for him. Those are the things you can’t anticipate happening. You want to concentrate on the game, the players and all the fun stuff, but that was one that was hard to deal with.
While the missteps for the Bulls organization were undeniable under Paxson’s tenure, not everything was a disaster. Also, after watching and listening to this interview, the last thing that should ever be questioned is Paxson’s desire to see the Bulls as a successful organization. Sometimes things just don’t go as planned.
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