Ah Media Day! The start of a new NBA season! It’s nothing but hope, optimism, and canned answers. How would you like your talking points today? Laced throughout a 20 minute presentation on the offseason by the Front Office, and generously scattered throughout numerous awkward player interviews, please! Whether you wanted them or not, the talking points took center stage, as they usually do, at Media Day 2019. Here’s a link to the Bulls official YouTube page where you can find several press conferences with all the talking points you could ever want.
None of those platitudes matter. We’ve heard them all before and they’re boring.
But there is something from the day worth talking about.
Something different happened this past Monday at Media Day 2019. Something of epic proportion. I wasn’t there to witness it first hand (the Bulls understandably don’t allow bloggers media credentials), but I watched recordings of the proceedings online several hours after the fact. And let me tell you, this was a something unprecedented in annals of Chicago Bulls history.
John Paxson stuck his neck out.
“…Our goals this year are very simple. First and foremost, we want to compete at a high, high level. We think we can compete. And when you compete at a high level you have the ability to become a playoff caliber team, and we set that as a goal…”- John Paxson, Executive Vice-President of Basketball Operations for the Chicago Bulls
You read that right: John Paxson said the goal for this season was to be a playoff team.
I KNOW! But before we get too excited…
Let’s rewind the clock to a couple days before Media Day and focus in on the plucky hero who made this historic event happen, Bulls beat writer for the Athletic, Darnell Mayberry.
On Friday, September 25th, the Athletic published a fiery opinion piece by Mayberry entitled Time for John Paxson and Co. to cut the bull and start thinking big.
The article was brilliant. It called out John Paxson and the rest of the Bulls Front Office for the wishy-washy goals they’ve set for the team during past Media Days. Mayberry suggested that fear of falling short, and fear of being held accountable has made Paxson and the rest of the Front Office temper expectations for each season of the rebuild. Mayberry asserted that after this offseason all the pieces are now in place for the Bulls, there are no more excuses for failure. He challenged Paxson and the rest of the Bulls to be bold.
“…Paxson needs to set a different tone for this season. He has to kick off the year by talking about the playoffs as the goal… Paxson, head coach Jim Boylen and every Bulls player need to start thinking bigger and striving for better. And no one should be shy in stating as much.”- Darnell Mayberry, Bulls beat writer for The Athletic
The gauntlet was tossed. Not just tossed, but hurled directly into the face of the most prickly executive in the NBA.
Whether it was fear of being called a coward, or confidence in the team he built, John Paxson accepted Mayberry’s challenge. In the opening moments of Monday’s press conference for Media Day 2019, John Paxson unequivocally stated that the goal for this Bulls team is TO MAKE THE PLAYOFFS THIS SEASON!!!!
Not only did John Paxson state it, Jim Boylen did as well, only much more directly.
Jim Boylen: “Our goal for this season is to make the playoffs.”
— K.C. Johnson (@KCJHoop) September 30, 2019
And the goal to make the playoffs was echoed in every player press conference and interview throughout the event. It was a glorified talking point.
At the end of last season, John Paxson sat down in front of the media and told us that the goal for this season was “to be in the hunt for the playoffs.” After Darnell Mayberry’s opinion piece the goal shifted to flat out making the playoffs.
John Paxson has finally stepped up and put his neck on the line for his team. He’s finally showed some of that mental toughness and sacrifice he demands from his players.
This is a resounding victory for Bulls fans.
There is a tangible goal with which to judge the team and Front Office this season. Yes, it’s a high mark to reach, but in the Eastern Conference it’s reachable. Even for a team that struggled to win 22 games last season, it’s reachable.
You see, Darnell Mayberry is right, there are no more excuses. There can be no more wishy-washy goals, or nebulous catch-phrases like “in the hunt”. Three lottery picks, several trades and free agent signings removed from Jimmy Butler, and on paper, the 2019-20 Bulls are finally talented enough to compete “at a high, high level.”
Finally fans have a yard stick with which they can measure the Front Office: John Paxson’s own words.
And it’s all because of the hero Darnell Mayberry. He teased the goal out of Paxson with a deft jab at his honor.
I hope Mayberry continues to challenge the Front Office, holding them accountable if and/or when they fail to build a winning team. Joe Cowley of the Chicago Sun-Times aside, no one else seems willing to do so. We fans need a voice that can reach John Paxson and the rest of the Front Office, and Darnell Mayberry may have proved himself that voice. Let’s see if he continues to use his super powers for good.
Training camp started yesterday, and so did the injuries. Chandler Hutchison who has been sidelined with a hamstring injury, was sent home due to a virus. Second year big man, Wendell Carter Jr. sprained his ankle and is day-to-day. Rookie big man, Daniel Gafford hyper-extended an elbow and no time table has yet been set for his return. In positive injury news, Denzel Valentine, who some were reporting would be limited in training camp due to last seasons ankle injury, is healthy and fully participating in camp.
Another season, another glut of injuries.
Next week, we’ll have some preseason games to dissect. And coming soon: Bold Predictions for the 2019-20 NBA Season. Until then, thanks for reading and GO BULLS!!!