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Bulls, Cavaliers making no excuses in spite of stilted travel schedule

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USA Today

Bulls, Cavaliers making no excuses in spite of stilted travel schedule

Snowy conditions in Chicago marred both the Bulls and Cavaliers' travel plans ahead of their bout Saturday night at the UC. Each team had its flights from respective departure cities (for the Bulls, Philadelphia; for the Cavaliers, Memphis) overnight on Friday, and didn't arrive in Chicago until Saturday morning.

But, before the game, both coaches scoffed good-naturedly at the notion that the stilted schedule might impact their preparation time or energy.

"We still showed up for our meal in Chicago at the same time," Cavaliers head coach John Beilein said. "I think with the NBA what I've observed is the long nap time in the afternoon is more important than anything for these guys. So we didn't get much sleep the night before, had to get up early. But we got to the hotel and ate at 11, and from 12 to 4 our guys got some pretty good rest."

"This has happened before. We're on a back-to-back, we need to do the basics better. I haven't talked about the travel, I'm not going to talk to the team about how difficult it was or whatever. I don't do that," Jim Boylen said. "This is the pro part, the professional part, so we gotta come out and play hard."

That the Bulls will do, as they do every night. And perhaps, in spite of their grueling January slate, they might find an edge over a Cavaliers team currently running a gauntlet of their own.

For the Cavs, this game is the last of a six-game road trip, on which they're 2-3 to this point. In that context, there might not be a more nightmarish matchup than the Bulls, given their ability to force turnovers. The Bulls' aggressive, trapping defensive scheme yields 17.8 opponent turnovers per game, the most in the NBA. The Cavaliers commit the second-most turnovers per game in the league (16.3) and own the league's highest turnover rate (16.4%).

"We're playing a very different team now with the way they play defense, very aggressive, steal the ball a lot," Beilein said. "We tried to show as much film as we could without wearing [the players] out, make sure that we were fresh seeing as we're coming off a back-to-back. They're leading the league in turning people over, we're leading the league in turning the ball over, so that'll be an interesting question whether we can solve that today."

"We always hope to have active hands and make people play through our hands," Boylen said. "Hopefully [we] do what we do."

The Bulls enter play 15-28, the Cavaliers 12-30. And both are coming off losses on the front end of their back-to-backs — the Bulls 100-89 to the 76ers and the Cavaliers 113-109 to the upstart Grizzlies. Logistical misfortunes aside, there's a game to be played tonight, and don't expect any excuses from either side.

"Both of us [the Cavaliers and Bulls] are coming off tough losses and we both have to deal with it, and you know, we'll see," Beilein said. "Hopefully it's going to be a really good game, and whichever team can battle that adversity the best is gonna win." 

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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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5 key moves the Nuggets made during Arturas Karnisovas' tenure

5 key moves the Nuggets made during Arturas Karnisovas' tenure

The Bulls have their man. After two successful virtual interviews, the Bulls are in advanced negotiations to make Denver Nuggets general manager Arturas Karnisovas the team's new head of basketball operations.

Karnisovas comes to Chicago with a sterling reputation as a talent evaluator, communicator and basketball thinker. His track record as an international scout with the Houston Rockets and as both an assistant GM and GM in Denver reflects that.

Let's examine some of the most notable moves the Nuggets made during Karnisovas' tenure with the team:

5 keys moves the Nuggets made during Arturas Karnisovas' tenure

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