"We do believe that Derrick's going to be a great player again," Paxson said during Tuesday's news conference. "We can't promise anybody that, but that's a belief of ours because we know Derrick well enough and we think he's going to work hard enough. But the challenge always is building a team and putting the group of players together -- in this case it might be more about building with Derrick, as opposed to saying, 'OK, Derrick, you got to shoulder all the burden.' But that's OK. Because I've seen plenty of teams win in this league, too, at a very high level, going about it that way."
Paxson understands some fans may not be happy with the organization's decision to deal All-Star forward Luol Deng, but he is confident the Bulls can retool their roster, instead of rebuilding it completely. What remains to be seen is if they will rebuild it completely around Rose given the fact he has played in only 50 games in the past three seasons.
"There's an unknown there," Paxson said. "I think if you ask Derrick he's going to tell you, as he did in his press conference, don't count him out. And we certainly don't. We also know that the challenge for us over the years has been to continue to find playmakers to go with Derrick. Let's face it: The league is a superstar league, in terms of guys at the top of your roster. That's how the teams that have a couple great players are usually the teams at the end of the day that win. But there's also a team-building component that I think is underrated and undervalued. You look at the Indiana Pacers right now, they've done a terrific job in team building. They've done some through the draft, they've done some through signings, things like that."
Paxson is confident that he and general manager Gar Forman, who is currently scouting the D-League Showcase in Reno, Nev., will be able to find the right players to put in place.
"Gar and I have worked together now for 10 years," Paxson said. "We've got a terrific scouting staff that works really, really hard. And we have confidence in our ability to get good players. We've done it in the back end of the draft several times, key components of our team right now, which always gives us optimism about some of the things we do. So it's about building this team, and this deal gives us some flexibility to build at a level we feel we need to build. Where we can get a deep team, a team that has ... we have ideas of what type of player we want to get in the future. We have ideas of what type of people we want, so that's our challenge, that's our goal."
Rose's goal is simply to get healthy and stay on the floor. He was spotted before Paxson's news conference walking the halls of the United Center without crutches and appeared to be in good spirits.
"We know how badly he wants it and is committed to getting better," Paxson said. "We don't have a crystal ball, we don't know if he's going to have another injury at some point. You don't know that. We expect him to get back to form because those last few games he did play we saw him get his rhythm, all those type things. It's hard to go through these things, though. It's hard to go through a significant player having a season-ending injury, and it's difficult to go through a situation where you've made a significant move of a player that has great importance to you as an organization and you have great respect and admiration for. But the Derrick question -- we believe he'll be a terrific player for us when he suits up next year."
Paxson also acknowledged that Rose spoke to Bulls owner Jerry Reinsdorf and Forman regarding the Deng deal. Paxson believes that Rose understands what the Bulls are trying to do.
"Both Jerry and Gar spoke to Derrick," Paxson said. "I'm never going to speak for Derrick; Derrick can speak for himself, and I'm sure when he feels [like it], he will. Our communication has never led us to believe that. And the one thing that we will never do with any player, with Derrick or any other player, we'll never put him in the middle of any situation. That's a bad formula for anything. So we'll never ask a player to choose sides on anything like that. I know Jerry said he had a real good conversation with Derrick last night, and the one thing I think is important too is you spend time around people.
"We spend time around Tom [Thibodeau] and our players. I think our players understand that we're in this with them, too. We want to win as well. But sometimes when we're in this position that Gar and I are in, and that Jerry and Michael [Reinsdorf] oversee, you have to make difficult moves. And that's the reality of it today. These are not easy days for an organization. They really aren't. But I do believe going forward that's what you have to now focus on and what you have to believe in your ability that you're going to be able to correct. We've put a tremendous premium on character and we have a ton of character in that locker room. If we stay healthy those guys will compete every night, and that's not a concern."