Paxson shoves Del Negro in dispute over playing time

Despite the Bulls’ late push for a playoff spot, all is not rosy in Chicago. Yahoo! Sports reports that general manager John Paxson pushed head coach Vinny Del Negro because he played Joakim Noah more than he was supposed to.

Chicago Bulls executive vice president John Paxson shoved coach Vinny Del Negro twice in the chest and had to be restrained in a postgame confrontation late last month, multiple sources told Yahoo! Sports.

After a loss to the Phoenix Suns on March 30, an irate Paxson walked into the coach’s office at the United Center and confronted Del Negro over a narrow breach of a management-imposed minutes limit on injured forward Joakim Noah. Sources said Paxson first grabbed a hold of Del Negro’s tie and seemingly tried to provoke him with two successive jabs into his chest. Paxson was even heard to angrily challenge Del Negro to a fight.

Sources said Del Negro did not retaliate, mostly out of fear the incident could be used to void his contract without pay or hurt future career opportunities elsewhere. The Bulls have dispatched lawyers to interview witnesses about the incident, sources said.

What a scene this must have been. A GM for a NBA team poking his head coach in the chest because he played one of his semi-injured players too many minutes, and the coach is too worried about his contract to react. Unsurprisingly, both parties are toeing the company line.

Del Negro has been on thin ice all season and he’s fighting for his job right now. If he can lead the Bulls to the playoffs and give the Cavs a decent run in the first round, he might have an opportunity to stick around and coach whatever big-name free agent that the Bulls are able to land. If his Bulls miss the playoffs (by losing to Charlotte and Toronto beating the Knicks tonight) then there’s a good chance he’ll be canned.

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