Bulls try to downplay Del Negro-Paxson spat
The Chicago Bulls tried to downplay last month’s confrontation
between coach Vinny Del Negro and vice president of basketball
operations John Paxson on Wednesday night, just before they avoided
the distractions to clinch a playoff berth.
In a statement released before their 98-89 win over Charlotte
secured the last playoff spot in the Eastern Conference, general
manager Gar Forman confirmed there was an “internal disagreement”
that was the result of each “expressing their passion” about the
well-being of players and the desire to win.
Yahoo! Sports reported Paxson grabbed Del Negro’s tie and shoved
him before being restrained by assistant coaches on in a dispute
over forward Joakim Noah’s playing time after a game against
Phoenix on March 30.
Noah, who was recovering from a foot injury, was having his
minutes monitored. The report said Paxson was upset that Noah
played too much in the game, which had become a long-running
dispute with his coach.
“The event occurred in Coach Del Negro’s office, not in the
locker room and not in front of the players, as some wrongly have
reported,” Forman said. “This disagreement, while not
communicated well by either party in the heat of the moment and in
the immediate aftermath of a tough loss, was a result of
conflicting views, but all based on the fine balance required to
ensure both the immediate and long-term success of the team and the
health of its players.”
ESPNChicago.com reported on Wednesday, citing an unidentified
source, that it was Del Negro that initiated the physical contact
in the incident. Del Negro vehemently denied that in his pregame
media availability before the Bobcats game.
“That’s inaccurate. That’s 100 percent false,” Del Negro said.
“But this thing is funny because you have guys that care, guys
that are competitive. It’s unfortunate that it had to come out, but
the most important thing is to focus on the game tonight, the
players and the effort that they’re putting in and all those things
will take of themselves at the end of the season. Hopefully, that’s
not for a while.”
Forman said they wouldn’t announce any disciplinary action until
after the season. There had been widespread speculation before the
report that Del Negro could be fired despite having another year
left on his contract.
“The Bulls have a full and complete understanding of what took
place, but, as requested by all parties, will address the attendant
issues with the participants after the season is over,” Forman
said. “At this point, everyone intends to keep focused on the
The Bulls will face top-seeded Cleveland in the first round of
“It’s not about me. It’s about the players,” Del Negro said.
“Players win games. I’m very proud of the way the guys have hung
together all year, through a lot of things.”