3 things about Bulls' new executive Arturas Karnisovas that stand out

3 things about Bulls' new executive Arturas Karnisovas that stand out

The Bulls are on the cusp of officially naming just their third head of basketball operations since Jerry Reinsdorf and a group of investors purchased the team in 1985.

So, who is Arturas Karnisovas? That's a question at the front of many Bulls fans' minds as they picture a brighter future for an organization currently mired in a meandering rebuild.

NBC Sports Chicago Bulls Insider K.C. Johnson has spent time getting to the bottom of that very question.

From Johnson, when asked his impressions of Karnisovas on the latest Bulls Talk Podcast:

What I would say is three things have stood out in, really, every conversation I've had about him. These three themes have jumped out.

He's a very inclusive person. He seeks collaboration and input from a wide variety of people. He grew up in the Houston Rockets franchise, Daryl Morey is big on that concept as is Tim Connelly in Denver, so he's kind of known that with his other front office structures. Which is why I'm excited to see who he brings with him, because I think there's potential to really modernize this Bulls front office, which frankly has lagged behind today's modern NBA for some time now.

And the other two things that jump out consistently with literally every conversation I've had about him are his international relationships and connections. I mean he knows basically everybody, seemingly, in the basketball world. He could walk into any gym in any country and feel comfortable. And that extends beyond the Lithuanian aspect, I mean, he ran Basketball Without Borders for the NBA, so he could go into a gym in Africa and, you know, get a shoutout from somebody. He just seems like he's somebody who's very comfortable in his own skin.

And then, the last thing that I think is important about him is his organizational detail. Tim Connelly is very known around the NBA for being a really frenetic presence, a really energetic and kind of — I don't want to say chaotic, because that sounds negative and it's not — I mean, he's just a very fly-by-the-seat-of-his-pants, bounce things off the wall kind of thing. And it's been successful, I'm not being critical, he's an incredible executive. My point is Arturas was kind of the stoic, behind the scenes organizer and Tim Connelly has said this on the record, so, I mean, I think the fact that you have somebody who's detail-oriented and an organizer, especially if he surrounds himself with the right people, could bode well for the Bulls moving forward.

Indeed, Karnisovas is one of the most well-respected veteran executives in the league. After playing collegiately at Seton Hall, enjoying a decorated professional career overseas and making two Olympics appearances, he worked for the NBA league office on international projects and as an international scout for the Rockets before moving to the Nuggets. The Nuggets promoted Karnisovas to general manager in 2017 after he had interviews for the Bucks and Nets' general manager positions. 

Now, the keys to the Bulls are his, with impending decisions on subsequent hires in the front office and coaching staff looming. By all accounts, his aptitude and reputation should inspire optimism. 

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With Bulls out of NBA’s return plan, focus shifts to unprecedented offseason

With Bulls out of NBA’s return plan, focus shifts to unprecedented offseason

The Bulls began the 2019-20 season with such promise, even talking playoffs.

They will end it with such peculiarity, now talking pandemic.

Pending expected ownership approval in a Thursday morning Board of Governors call, NBA commissioner Adam Silver will announce a 22-team return-to-play format that doesn’t feature the Bulls, according to sources.

What a wild eight months it has been.

Back at last September’s media day, John Paxson, Gar Forman and Jim Boylen talked optimistically about making progress in Season 3 of the full rebuild undertaken when the Bulls traded Jimmy Butler in June 2017. Instead, an underwhelming campaign led Paxson to tell ownership last December that it needed to modernize the front office.

Now, Arturas Karnisovas has replaced Paxson, who remains a senior advisor, and Marc Eversley has replaced Forman, who was fired. And with the season expected to end officially on Thursday, Boylen’s future hangs in the balance. A source said there is no imminent announcement regarding Boylen’s status.

When Utah Jazz All-Star Rudy Gobert tested positive for COVID-19 on March 11 and Silver became the first major sports commissioner to push their league into an indefinite hiatus, the Bulls were riding a wave of optimism. Coby White had just started his first NBA game, scoring 20 points to continue his strong play in a home victory over the Cavaliers.

But that victory nudged the team to merely 22-43, one fewer game than the last time they played a shortened season thanks to a lockout in 2011-12. And that season, under Tom Thibodeau, they led the NBA with a 50-16 mark.

Though Boylen owns support from ownership and Paxson, his future will be Karnisovas’ call. The former Nuggets executive said he was hired to “affect change.” Eversley said the new regime’s mission is to make the Bulls a “player-first organization.”

Much of the player feedback the duo received about Boylen during the hiatus raises questions about his long-term fit. However, Karnisovas is known as a deliberate, thoughtful decision-maker who has worked to empower Boylen for now.

For instance, in a sign of Karnisovas’ leadership style, he has communicated to Boylen to focus strictly on coaching and working with his staff and players, sources said. Too often last season, Boylen got wrapped up in dealing with player agents or honoring commitments on the business operations side, which sidetracked his focus.

Karnisovas has communicated to the coaching staff that he and Eversley will put out the near-daily fires that typically arise over the course of a season. None of this, obvoiusly, precludes management from moving on from Boylen before the start of the 2020-21 season if it reaches that conclusion. But it gives a window into its operating procedure for now.

At his introductory news conference via conference call, Karnisovas set his goals clearly.

“A firm foundation is absolutely vital, I'll build that here in Chicago. No skipping steps. There is a systematic approach to success that will be the product of focus and intention, hard work and diligence. We will strive for constant improvement,” he said. “Chicago is a great sports town with a long, robust sports history. The city is made up of very passionate fans. Earning the enthusiasm and excitement back from the fans is both a challenge and something I very much look forward to. These fans deserve a team that they can be proud of, and my objective is to get us back to relevancy.”

Since being hired, Karnisovas and Eversley have held substantive conversations with players, evaluated all departments and begun the draft process. They added Pat Connelly as vice president of player personnel and J.J. Polk as assistant general manager.

However, Karnisovas has also utilized holdover front-office personnel like associate general manager Brian Hagen, assistant general manager Steve Weinman, director of pro personnel Jim Paxson and others, for now. Karnisovas has addressed situations he felt needed immediate change — the dismissal of Forman is an example — but is allowing the evaluation process to play out for other decisions.

With Otto Porter Jr. widely expected to exercise his $28.5 million player option and the pandemic likely impacting future salary caps, the new management regime may be initially limited to what they can do roster-wise. They face decisions on restricted free agents Kris Dunn and Denzel Valentine.

And they’ve expressed confidence in some of the core pieces like Coby White and Wendell Carter Jr., while vowing to explore the reasons behind Lauri Markkanen’s regression.

It won’t help the Bulls and their status as one of the league’s youngest teams to go over nine months between regular season games. Even with momentum for a voluntary September minicamp for the teams not still playing in Orlando, it’s an unprecedented situation and alters a typical evaluation period for Karnisovas and Eversley.

For what it’s worth, Zach LaVine led the 2019-20 Bulls in scoring at 25.5 points per game. Carter finished as the top rebounder, averaging 9.4 per game. And Tomas Satoransky’s 5.4 assists per game led that category.

But the only number that matters is 22 victories, a full eight fewer than the eighth-seeded Magic when the league shut down. That number left the Bulls on the outside looking in, with plenty of work to do for 2020-21.

RELATED: Explaining the NBA's return plan, which won't include Bulls

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NBC Sports Chicago to present 'Derrick Rose Week' starting Monday, June 8

NBC Sports Chicago to present 'Derrick Rose Week' starting Monday, June 8

Chicago, IL (June 3, 2020) – NBC Sports Chicago has announced additional primetime pro game replacement programming as the network will deliver a special week of multi-platform content featuring “Classic” game performances and expanded digital/audio coverage highlighting one of the most talented players in Chicago Bulls history, Derrick Rose.  In his seven-season stint with the Bulls, the Chicago native/Simeon Career Academy grad earned numerous league honors including “Rookie of the Year” in 2009, three NBA All-Star Game appearances (2010-12), along with being named the NBA’s “Most Valuable Player” in 2011, becoming the youngest player in league history to earn the award at age 22.

NBC Sports Chicago will honor the Bulls great with “Derrick Rose Week presented by Saint Xavier University” starting up Monday, June 8 at 7:00 PM CT with the first of five-straight nights of “Classic” game performances beginning with Rose’s very first NBA Playoff game from 2009, a standout 36-point performance against Paul Pierce, Rajon Rondo and the Boston Celtics.  Please note the full “Derrick Rose Week” ‘Classic game schedule below; all games air at 7:00 PM. (NOTES: Authenticated NBC Sports Chicago subscribers can also stream every “Derrick Rose Week” Classic match-up online via NBCSportsChicago.com/WatchLive; game replays will only be made available to viewers within NBC Sports Chicago’s designated viewing territory; schedule subject to change).

Monday, June 8
2009 NBA Eastern Conf Quarterfinals-Game 1: Bulls at Boston (From 4/18/09 -- 105-103 Bulls win; #7-seed Bulls pull off Game 1 opening round shocker at “The Garden” as Rose pumps in 36 pts. in his NBA Playoffs debut)

Tuesday, June 9
Bulls at Phoenix (From 1/22/10 -- 115-104 Bulls win; Rose’s memorable, gravity-defying dunk over Goran Dragic was the icing on the cake in this solid 32 point/5 assist/3 steal performance)

Wednesday, June 10
Bulls vs. Detroit (From 10/30/10 -- 101-91 Bulls win; 2010-11 season Home Opener; Rose w/39 points and 7 assists; Bulls go on a 19-2 fourth quarter run)

Thursday, June 11
Bulls at Milwaukee (From 3/7/12 -- 106-104 Bulls win; one of D-Rose’s most memorable games, a 30 point/11 assist/8 rebound effort which was capped off with his thrilling GW buzzer-beater)

Friday, June 12
2015 NBA Eastern Conf Quarterfinals-Game 3: Bulls at Milwaukee (From 4/23/15 -- 113-106 2OT Bulls win; Rose dominates the Bucks with 34 points and 8 assists giving the Bulls a 3-0 first round series lead)

In addition to NBC Sports Chicago’s “Classic” game telecasts, fans can also look forward to the following enhanced “Derrick Rose Week” digital/audio content:

DIGITAL COVERAGE -- NBCSportsChicago.com & “MyTeams by NBC Sports” app

Led by NBC Sports Chicago’s Bulls “Insider” K.C. Johnson, along with multi-platform Bulls contributor Rob Schaefer, fans can look forward to expanded “Derrick Rose Week” digital coverage via NBCSportsChicago.com and the “MyTeams by NBC Sports” app (NOTE:  Fans located anywhere in the U.S. can download MyTeams for free on iOS and Android devices in the Apple App Store and Google Play Store).  Among the digital-exclusive highlights include:

-    In-depth columns focusing on the “Complexity of Rose’s career,” “What if D-Rose never got injured?”, “Rose’s Hall of Fame Case” and more.
-    Web Gallery Blitz: Youngest MVP’s every sport, Top Chicago-native draft picks, Rose’s most impactful teammates, Top 10 Chicago high school hoops players and THE best D-Rose rap references.
-    Videos On Demand: Stacey King’s top D-Rose calls, Rose’s MVP speech, Top Rose moments & dunks, a Rose-Simeon Career Academy highlights mixtape and much more.
-    Trivia: Fans will learn even more about D-Rose throughout the week with numerous fun facts.


•    PODCASTS: Bulls fans can look forward to special “Derrick Rose Week” editions of NBC Sports Chicago’s popular “BULLS TALK” Podcast featuring Jason Goff and K.C. Johnson, along with special guests.  Fans can download all of NBC Sports Chicago’s podcasts at NBCSportsChicago.com/podcasts and simply subscribe to them via Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, Spotify, Stitcher, TuneIn or iHeart.  The podcasts can be played on any mobile device, laptop, or desktop computer.

•    SOCIAL MEDIA: NBC Sports Chicago’s social media portals on Facebook (Facebook.com/NBCSChicago), Twitter (@NBCSBulls) and Instagram (‘NBCSChicago’) will also provide fans with massive “Derrick Rose Week” content beginning Monday, June 8.

NOTE:  For the latest news, analysis, team/league updates and team-specific podcasts, fans are urged to visit NBCSportsChicago.com or download the “MyTeams by NBC Sports” app.  

NBC Sports Chicago, a partnership between the Chicago Blackhawks (NHL), Chicago Bulls (NBA), Chicago White Sox (MLB) and the NBC Sports Group, features over 275 live pro games in high definition each year.  In addition, NBC Sports Chicago delivers extensive pre/post-game coverage for its core pro team partners, as well as Chicago Bears and Chicago Cubs multi-platform coverage, plus - local sports discussion programs that includes SportsTalk Live, and massive cross-platform coverage provided by the network’s growing digital platform, NBCSportsChicago.com, the “MyTeams by NBC Sports” app, and its variety of fan-focused social media outlets. Fans can follow the network on Twitter via @NBCSChicago.  

NBC Sports Regional Networks is NBC Sports Group’s portfolio of nine regional networks that delivers more than 2,200 live sporting events and original content to more than 35 million homes. Aligned within Eastern and Western Divisions, the NBC Sports Regional Networks are: NBC Sports Boston, NBC Sports Philadelphia, NBC Sports Philadelphia +, NBC Sports Washington, NBC Sports Washington + and SNY; and NBC Sports Bay Area, NBC Sports California, NBC Sports Chicago/NBC Sports Chicago+, and NBC Sports Northwest. For more information on NBC Sports Group properties, including press releases, photos, talent and executive bios, headshots and logos, please visit www.NBCSportsGroupPressBox.com.