New Bulls executive vice president of basketball operations Arturas Karnisovas sat down Monday with NBC Sports Chicago for his first on-camera interview.
In this day and age of living during a global pandemic, that meant Karnisovas sat in Denver, speaking and staring into a computer screen.
“We’re talking about sports when we’re all going through this. It’s surreal for now,” Karnisovas said. “In our industry, we live by a timeline. And there’s no timeline now. You organize yourself all your year based on preseason, season, trade deadline, end of regular season, combine, draft, free agency. We have schedules to keep. Now we don’t have any timeline. And we don’t know when it’s coming.
“There’s a lot of uncertainty. That’s the situation we have. Unfortunately, I can’t fly to Chicago and meet people personally.”
The situation isn’t stopping Karnisovas from getting to work. He’s just going about things differently. Beyond his appreciation for EDM and house music, here are five things we learned from the sit-down:
Player development isn’t just lip service to him.
“We put a huge emphasis on it in Denver. We had a very young roster. Last year, we were third-youngest roster in the league, but we still won 54 games. That’s a huge credit to our players and coaches who accomplished that in Denver. Here, going back to player development, players want to get better. They have certain expectations. I’m going to try to facilitate that. I’m going to challenge them. A lot of those players have had great performances. But we have to think about winning games and the expectations of winning games. That’s very important to me.
“So I’m going to be putting a huge emphasis on player development. Players want to play and players want to win. I’m going to try to facilitate that. I’m going to try to improve every year. Constant improvement is what we’ve done in Denver. I’d like to incorporate that here.”
Player relationships are important to him.
“They’re going use (this line) a lot of times, ‘Well, I’ve never seen this before.’ I’m going to be there in practice facility first. I’m going to be working out before them. We’ll eat breakfast maybe together. We’re going to talk about family. I’ll be around all the time until we establish a particular culture and expectations.
“I’m going to call every player on the roster to introduce myself. I know them all because we obviously profoundly scouted them when they were coming up. We’re one of the youngest rosters in the league. There’s a lot of talented pieces.”
He likes playing an aesthetically pleasing style of basketball.
“What I like is high pace. I like a lot of passing, moving the ball. Movement is very important to me. I like read-and-react offenses. I like players playing off each other. That obviously comes with time. In terms of what I value in players, our league is becoming a positionless league. I like players who can play multiple positions, multiskilled, versatile.”
He has a very specific plan of attack and hires people who challenge and complement him.
“At the end of the day, we parted ways with Gar (Forman). He’s been here a long time. I evaluated this particular move. In terms of adding J.J. Polk and Pat Connelly, those are the hires I wanted to make quick. Those hires will help me right away to establish some trust. There also are a lot of talented people on the staff right now who are established and I know some of them personally. We are ready to get to work. We’re going to evaluate our scouting department and what we need to add, where the blind spots are. The work already started.
“The next move is obviously to find general manager for this team. I’m going to have an extensive and diverse process. I have an advantage over Michael (Reinsdorf) when he was making 200 calls, and he doesn’t know people he’s talking to. I’ve been in this profession a long time. Most of the guys on the list I know personally and I’ve known them for a long time, from scouting games and going to dinners and interaction. It’s going to be easier for me. I know exactly the criteria I’m looking for. It’s going to be complementary to me and my skill set. I don’t want clones. I want somebody who is going to bring something different to our organization. Those are things I pay attention to.”
The man who played against The Dream Team and grew up a Bulls fan is excited for ESPN’s documentary “The Last Dance” too.
“It’s going to be exciting to watch those stories. 1992 was real exciting to me. I was a sophomore in college. (Seton Hall coach) P.J. Carlesimo was on the coaching staff of Dream Team. That experience was surreal — first time playing for Lithuania as an independent country, playing in the Olympics, playing against a roster that I admired as a kid. That’s why I was playing basketball. That’s why I felt passionate about the game. That continued experience in 1997 with the McDonald’s Open game and Chicago Bulls came to Paris. I was member of Olympiacos, a Greek club. We played them in the finals. That was an incredible experience playing against Michael (Jordan) and the crew.”