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It’s Time For the Bulls to Have Their Theo Epstein Moment

If the Bulls are truly interested in bringing in a fresh and well-respected voice to enact serious change as has been reported, then there is no better candidate than Masai Ujiri.

Photo: Nathan Denette/The Canadian Press via AP

The NBA’s All-Star Weekend in Chicago was a rousing success. Common, Chance the Rapper, and Jennifer Lawrence were just a few of the names that helped sign Chicago’s 72 hour-long love letter to the game of basketball. The weekend did little to distract Bulls’ fans from their current unfortunate realities. Chants of “Fire GarPax” rang out during a taping of ESPN’s First Take, which featured Zach LaVine as a guest, and #FireGarPax trended nationally during the game on Sunday night.

It was also during Sunday night’s festivities that reports began to circulate that Bulls’ president Michael Reinsdorf had begun doing background research to find a new leader in the front office — a leader with a louder voice, and one that would allow Gar Forman and John Paxson to assume other, less influential roles in the front office. It would be a very similar restructuring to one the White Sox front office underwent a number of years ago.

While maybe not the overhaul Bulls fans have wanted for so long that would see Forman and Paxson run out of town, this is likely best-case scenario given owner Jerry Reinsdorf’s well-documented loyalty.

Photo: Chicago Tribune

Joe Cowley of the Chicago Sun-Times has reported that the new lead man would have an opportunity to handpick their own coach, which would prove that the new hire would truly be in charge and have an opportunity to enact the change that Bulls fans want so badly.

If Bulls’ leadership is serious about shaking up the status quo and delivering Chicago a basketball team that matches the love for basketball that was on display this past weekend, their search should begin and end in once place. And that is with Toronto’s Masai Ujiri.

Much like when Theo Epstein came to the Chicago Cubs from the Boston Red Sox, Ujiri arriving in Chicago would make a major statement that the Bulls mean business. Epstein was considered a longshot to join the Cubs out of Boston when Tom Ricketts landed him, and Ujiri would be considered a longshot in this scenario, but it may not be as impossible as it seems.

Ujiri had long been rumored as a candidate to take over for the Knicks when James Dolan removed former president Steve Mills. Dolan quickly moved on from the idea of hiring Ujiri, opting instead to hire former agent Leon Rose. This leaves the Bulls as an interesting option for Ujiri for many of the same reasons Ujiri was attracted to the opening in New York.

Much like the Knicks, the Bulls are one of the premier market teams in the league, and have long been in search of someone to right the ship and return them to the glory of yesteryear. If the idea of working for an owner like James Dolan didn’t scare off Ujiri, neither should the thought of working for Reinsdorf.

It was also reported by ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski when the Knicks opening was briefly available that Ujiri had begun assuming a more behind-the-scenes role in the Raptors’ front office and that the architect of the 2019 NBA Champions was perhaps setting his sights on his next challenge. Wojnarowski also reported that he was intrigued by the idea of returning a former big-market franchise to glory. This should ring bells for Chicago fans, as it is very similar to how Epstein’s mindset when the Cubs hired him in 2011.

Photo: Nathan Denette/Canadian Press

When rumors of Ujiri leaving for New York arose, it was also reported by Wojnarowski that Ujiri had a clause in his contract that would allow him to leave after the 2019-20 season, which lines up perfectly with Reinsdorf’s timeline to shake up the front office. There is the issue of the possible draft compensation that it would take to hire away Ujiri, but the stars seem to be otherwise aligning for the Bulls to make a serious run at the former Executive of the Year.

Candidates of Ujiri’s status are rarely, if ever, available — especially ones that would be interested in helping a franchise such as the Bulls. Ujiri would bring a proven pedigree and the knowledge of how to build an NBA champion. He would bring validity to a team that desperately needs some if it hopes to land one of the prized free agents set to hit the market within the next two years.

It has also been reported that the Bulls opening will be seen as one of the premier openings in the NBA, despite the current state of the team. If the Bulls are truly interested in bringing in a fresh and well-respected voice to enact serious change as has been reported, then there is no better candidate than Ujiri.

If the Bulls are truly looking to return to their winning ways, their search needs to go no further than Toronto. It’s time for the Bulls organization to have their Theo Epstein moment by bringing in Masai Ujiri.


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