Bulls

Bulls list Zach LaVine, Daniel Gafford as questionable vs. 76ers

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USA Today

Bulls list Zach LaVine, Daniel Gafford as questionable vs. 76ers

The hits keep coming.

Zach LaVine, who has started all 53 games for the Bulls this season, didn't practice Saturday and is questionable for Sunday's game at the 76ers. The Bulls, who already are without Lauri Markkanen, Otto Porter Jr., Wendell Carter Jr. and Kris Dunn, also listed Daniel Gafford as questionable, though he at least practiced.

Gafford is dealing with a sprained right ankle. LaVine woke up sore Friday after he played through having a player land on his neck during Thursday's loss to the Pelicans.

"He got hit in the back of the neck when a guy fell on him and he got fouled on a backcut. I think it was (Jrue) Holiday who landed on him," coach Jim Boylen said. "Popped him pretty good. He was hurting but he played through it. He was very sore and stiff [Friday] and still pretty sore and stiff [Saturday]."

LaVine and Tomas Satoransky are the only Bulls to start all 53 games. Rookie Coby White, who has come off the bench, is the only other Bull who hasn't missed a game.

"The amount of trauma that this team has faced is unusual. It’s a drain on everyone. We have to fight through it in this moment," Boylen said. "We’ll evaluate (the core) when we get a chance to evaluate. In the meantime, we have to continue to develop and play competitive basketball."

The Bulls have lost four straight.

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Bulls negotiating to make Arturas Karnisovas head of basketball operations

Bulls negotiating to make Arturas Karnisovas head of basketball operations

The Bulls and Arturas Karnisovas have reached agreement in principle and are negotiating a deal to make Karnisovas their new head of basketball operations, sources confirmed.

As head of basketball operations, Karnisovas will have authority to hire a new general manager, build out the organizational infrastructure and will have full autonomy over basketball operations, including deciding the future of the coaching staff, sources said.

John Paxson is expected to move into a senior advisory role with no daily presence around the team, sources said. He has offered to help Karnisovas in any manner in which Karnisovas sees fit.

The future of current general manager Gar Forman, who has moved largely into a scouting role, will be discussed.

Karnisovas, a Lithuanian native who is leaving his post as Nuggets general manager, is the first outside hire to run basketball operations since Jerry Reinsdorf led a group of investors to purchase the Bulls in 1985. It's also the first major transaction spearheaded by team president and chief operating officer Michael Reinsdorf, who led the search and conducted the first interview of Karnisovas. Bulls chairman Jerry Reinsdorf met Karnisovas during a second remote interview Wednesday evening.

After playing collegiately at Seton Hall, enjoying a decorated professional career overseas and making two Olympics appearances, Karnisovas 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. 

Karnisovas' organizational and leadership skills, originally conveyed to the Bulls in pre-interview discussions with Nuggets owner Josh Kroenke and president of basketball operations Tim Connelly, stood out during the interview process, sources said.

“Inclusivity for me is a huge thing. Hiring intelligent, passionate people is another thing of mine. Just being fair with people and put them in position to do their jobs, not to micromanage them,” Karnisovas told Sports Illustrated’s Chris Mannix on The Crossover podcast, when asked about his organizational philosophies. “I think with personnel and surrounding yourself with people is the way you deal with players. You’re trying to project what they’re going to be in two or three years. And hopefully you select personnel that have the potential to be also GMs in the future. And you’re going to help them to get there and then be proud when they get there.”

Working with Connelly in Denver, Karnisovas helped assemble a team stocked with young talent that improved from 30 to 54 victories in the Western Conference. Asked by Mannix about the difficulty of projecting the ceiling while drafting young players, Karnisovas said: 

“It is, but it’s fun. You have your database in your head and your mistakes and successes. You just take away from each situation and (if) what I said (was) wrong about the player, what were the reasons? Success stories, there’s a lot of luck obviously involved. You just make informative decisions and hopefully that will stick.” 

Working with Daryl Morey in Houston, Karnisovas learned about the value of analytics and swinging boldly regarding trades. In Denver, the Nuggets rebuilt successfully.

Every other night through April 15, NBC Sports Chicago is airing the entirety of the Bulls' 1996 NBA championship run. Find the full schedule here.

Click here to download the new MyTeams App by NBC Sports! Receive comprehensive coverage of your teams and stream the Bulls easily on your device.

Bulls observations: Toni Kukoc takes over as Bulls grab Game 1 over Sonics

Bulls observations: Toni Kukoc takes over as Bulls grab Game 1 over Sonics

We come to you from Game 1 of the 1996 NBA Finals, when the Bulls took a 1-0 series lead with a 107-90 victory over the Seattle SuperSonics. Observations:

Toni Kukoc busted out of his slump

Even as Toni Kukoc has endured struggles shooting the ball these playoffs, his impact on the team has been apparent. His passing, defensive versatility in spurts and even threat to shoot help the Bulls in both subtle and obvious ways.

Still, it was nice to see him bust out in this one. Kukoc scored 18 points on 7-for-13 shooting (2-for-5 from 3-point range) along with tallying four rebounds, four assists and a steal in 27 minutes off the bench. He got especially hot in the fourth as the Bulls pulled away once and for all, converting a goosebump-evoking four-point play early in the period.

All of that on the heels of a nine-game postseason stretch (he missed Games 3 and 4 of the Knicks series with a back ailment) in which he averaged 9.3 points on woeful 36.3/0.83/85.2 shooting splits. Entering Game 1 of the Finals, he was 3-for-36 from 3 in the playoffs.

The Bulls flipped the switch — again

This wasn't a game it felt the Bulls played their best, and still they won handily. Again, enhanced defensive intensity was key — they forced 17 Sonics turnovers compared to just seven cough-ups themselves. This is an unbelievable stat:

So is this:

Indeed, Jordan wasn't on his A-game tonight but still dropped 28 points on 9-for-18 shooting to lead all Bulls scorers. Scottie Pippen added another stat sheet stuffer with 21 points, seven rebounds, three assists, three blocks, and three steals; Dennis Rodman chipped in 13 rebounds; Ron Harper notched 15 points while providing his usual brand of swarming defense. Luc Longley got in foul trouble early and at times struggled with Shawn Kemp (32 points), but he contributed 14 points and a whopping four blocks. 

Hey look, it's that guy!

  • Bill Russell and David Stern were both in attendance for this one, so you knew it was the NBA Finals time. 
  • Bill Walton was on the call for NBC, and again, kept mostly to tempered — albeit insightful — analysis. There were a few exceptions, most of which involved him berating Detlef Schrempf for shoddy play. A beef we didn't know we needed.
  • Dennis got a new do:

He also later said in a pre-taped interview that he would "put [his] life on the line to win a basketball game" and that he, Jordan and Pippen (all ring-havers) wanted to take this title home for the Bulls' role players more than anything because they "they don't get the respect we do." Add that to the two times Rodman elicited "Hit the Road Jack" from the UC speakers in this one (once for Frank Brickowski and one for drawing Kemp's sixth foul), and I'm left continuously in awe of how much I love this guy.

Game 2 Friday on NBC Sports Chicago. Three wins left.

Every other night through April 15, NBC Sports Chicago is airing the entirety of the Bulls' 1996 NBA championship run. Find the full schedule here.

Click here to download the new MyTeams App by NBC Sports! Receive comprehensive coverage of your teams and stream the Bulls easily on your device.