Tuesday, April 3, 2018

The 45 Most Important Players to the Chicago Bulls Dynasty - #8 John Paxson

John Paxson
John Macbeth Paxson was drafted in...woah, woah, woah, wait a minute. John Paxson's middle name is MacBeth. That is shockingly pretentious but explains so much about his management style. Anyway, we are not here to talk about middle names or incompetency in the current front office. I am only here to talk about John MacBeth Paxson as a player.

After an impressive career at Notre Dame, Paxson was selected 19th overall by the San Antonio Spurs in the 1983 NBA Draft. After a couple years with the Spurs, the Bulls signed Paxson as a free agent to become their backup point guard. He would spend his entire career bouncing around between starting and backing up at the point guard position, but he provided more good than bad as he stuck around the Bulls for nine seasons.

Him battling for playing time was especially relevant during the Bulls first threepeat. During the first three rounds of the playoffs, his and backup point guard, BJ Armstrong, were fairly close in minutes. But Paxson came through when it mattered most as he got red hot during the NBA Finals against the Lakers where he put up 6, 16, 10, 15, and 20 points respectively while shooting over 65% from the field during the series. That is how you come through in the clutch.

In 1991-92, Paxson held on to his starting role, although Armstrong's increased minutes meant a slight decrease in minutes for Paxson. But when it came to the playoffs, Phil Jackson felt more comfortable with the veteran and Paxson continued to play a majority of minutes when things mattered most.

In 1992-93, Paxson could no longer hold off the younger and more explosive Armstrong. He was now coming off the bench and his minutes had been greatly reduced. He could still get hot from the field on occasion but it appeared that he would not be making a big impact in the 1993 playoffs. But things don't always work out the way that you would expect, and Paxson did have a chance to make his impact in Game 6 of the NBA Finals against the Phoenix Suns. The Bulls called a timeout, trailing by two with 14.4 seconds left on the clock. Although Michael Jordan had scored all of the Bulls' points in the fourth quarter up to this point, he would not take the final shot. For that, it would be an unlikely hero.

There are three clutch shots that truly stand out during the Bulls run in the 1990s, and it's really tough to top this one. Since Jordan made the final one over Byron Russell in 1998, it's kind of tough to put this ahead of that, but a three-pointer when your team is down by two and time is running out. That is HUGE.

Paxson would play one more year before retiring after the 1993-94 season, although he would get one more ring as an assistant coach on the 1995-96 Chicago Bulls. He would follow that by going onto broadcasting before taking a front office job with the Bulls. That front office job may be what he is known most by with many Bulls fans. Early on, he worked his way to the top of the organization. Although there were many good drafts in there, the front office has been plagued by poor decisions that has caused the fans to call for his head.

There is an old Shakespeare story about the the damaging effects of ambition on those who seek power for its own sake. I guess his middle name does make sense.

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