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Relax - Pax isn't going to leave Bulls
By Mike McGraw | Daily Herald Staff

John Paxson


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Published: 2/13/2009 11:10 AM | Updated: 2/13/2009 10:39 PM

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The Bulls have created their fair share of bizarre storylines this season.

There was the owner declaring the season a "disaster," the star rookie cutting open his arm while slicing an apple ... in bed.

On Friday, a New York Post report that general manager John Paxson would resign following next Thursday's trade deadline took on a life of its own.

Sports talk radio spent most of the day in retrospect. "What's your favorite memory of the Paxson era? Call 591-YAKK."

Paxson himself refused to comment on the rumor, but team insiders were baffled by its origins. "Couldn't be further from the truth," said one.

Throughout the day, no evidence could be found that Paxson planned to resign. Another report of health problems forcing him to step down was unfounded. Yet this story dominated the local sports news.

The actual item, by longtime NBA columnist Peter Vecsey, wasn't even written with much confidence. "Do I know this to be fact? No," the story began. "But two people in the know maintain John Paxson will resign as Bulls GM soon after Thursday's trade deadline expires."

Bulls director of player personnel Gar Forman was suggested as the short-term replacement, with a familiar name waiting in the wings.

"One of the above sources," Vecsey wrote, "said he wouldn't be surprised if Doug Collins were approached again after the season regarding the coaching job (currently held by Vinny Del Negro) and as GM, or both."

The only response from the Bulls on Friday was a quote from chairman Jerry Reinsdorf distributed by the team.

"Pete Vecsey is not a credible enough source to comment on," Reinsdorf. "Two weeks ago he had John being fired. Now he has him resigning."

When Reinsdorf termed the season a disaster during a Jan. 30 television interview, he went out of his way to praise the job Paxson has done. The hero of the 1993 Finals victory over Phoenix was promoted from radio analyst to general manager in April 2003, replacing Jerry Krause.

"If there's one person that is not responsible for what's going on right now, it's John Paxson," Reinsdorf said on the "Monsters in the Morning" show on Comcast SportsNet. "I have tremendous confidence in John Paxson. He's really one of the best people that I know. He's a great general manager and a great judge of talent. I just worry that he might be too hard on himself."

This week figures to be a critical point in the Bulls' development, because some talented players are believed to be on the trading block as teams look to shed salaries in tough economic times.

Paxson and the Bulls remain interested in Suns all-star power forward Amare Stoudemire, but have concerns about his price tag, his aversion to defense and the long-term effects of microfracture knee surgery in 2005.

The Bulls headed into the all-star break with a 23-30 record after Thursday's disheartening 95-93 loss to Miami. After the Bulls threw away an inbounds pass with 3.5 seconds left, Shawn Marion ran a give-and-go with Dwyane Wade to throw down the game-winning dunk with 1.1 seconds on the clock.

That turned out to be Marion's last moment with the Heat. He was traded to Toronto on Friday for Jermaine O'Neal.