Bulls

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Just because the Bulls aren’t playing games for eight months doesn’t mean you don’t have questions, which is something for which I am thankful. Let’s get right to them.

What’s the future looking like for Jim Boylen? – Alex M.

Paging, Arturas Karnisovas. Alex is on Line 1...

This point has been widely reported, but Boylen and his staff’s future will be Karnisovas’ call. Ownership hired him to run basketball operations. So let’s review where things stand on both sides of the equation:

On the plus side for Boylen, he owns ownership support. His care factor has been praised by everyone from players to Karnisovas. The new executive vice president of basketball operations values members of Boylen’s staff. Karnisovas has worked to make Boylen focus simply on coaching rather than getting distracted by details — dealing with player agents, putting out other fires — that Boylen previously let take up too much of his time.

On the minus side, Boylen is 39-84 (.317) since taking over a rebuilding program. Players have offered mixed feedback on his tenure. Even with two years remaining on his contract, Boylen’s salary places him on the lower end of NBA coaches, so eating that money — along with some of his assistants? — isn’t prohibitive. (Although it’s fair to wonder if the pandemic and its financial impact affects this thought.) Karnisovas said he was hired to “affect change” and most new executives want their own coach in place.

Publicly, Karnisovas has said he wants to watch Boylen and his staff in action before finalizing his evaluation process. That’s one of the many reasons why the Bulls getting invited to the NBA’s restart in Orlando would have been beneficial. Since they weren’t, that evaluation will have to take place via shared film sessions, draft preparation and voluntary player workouts, plus possibly whatever formal team activities the league and players association agree upon for the eight neglected teams.

With no timeline scheduled for those, there’s no guarantee Boylen and his staff will get that final opportunity. Only Karnisovas knows when his evaluation timeline will conclude. He has emphasized that, with no games until December and a likely November training camp, there’s no rush on the decision. Also, the 2019-20 season isn’t over for all teams, which could initially limit the candidate pool should Karnisovas decide to make a change.

So stay tuned.

What percentage of the Bulls’ fan base wants Jim Boylen to return as coach? – Michael K.

With all due respect, particularly since Michael went on to write that he’s been a fan since Year 1 of the franchise, it’s more important for the new regime to discern what percentage of the roster wants him back.

That said, the fan base isn’t an insignificant aspect to this from my seat. I can’t claim to have the pulse of the entire fan base. However, the majority of feedback that crosses my sphere via email and social media is excited for the front office overhaul. There is considerable positivity and genuine intrigue for what’s next. And at least via the feedback that I get, retaining Boylen would be viewed as running counter to moving forward on a fresh start.

The Bulls will need as many fans in the seats as possible once they’re allowed to re-enter arenas. So any way to keep the positive momentum moving forward would seem to be a prudent idea.

With all the rumors about Boylen eventually getting fired, do you have any idea how the new leadership is addressing this internally with Boylen and his staff? I imagine Boylen reads this stuff, as well. Is there a chance he has already been told he's out the door or is it radio silence from all sides about [his] future? – Jason M.

Karnisovas has told Boylen and his staff to focus on coaching for now. This, to me, shines a light on Karnisovas' leadership style. At least for now, he's empowering Boylen to do his job. That means film study, draft prep, contact with players, voluntary workouts at the Advocate Center (now that those are allowed), assigning projects to assistant coaches on how to get personnel better. Typical offseason stuff. 

Until he's told otherwise, Boylen is the coach. This is a big boy league. Everybody understands what can happen when new management comes in. Karnisovas has empowered Boylen for now while also communicating that he and general manager Marc Eversley will evaluate all departments.

Do you sense there’s any interest in keeping Otto Porter Jr. past his contract now? Obviously, it would likely be on a much smaller deal than the max he has now. And granted, he hasn’t really stayed healthy since coming to Chicago. But maybe a one-and-one to prove himself? – Aaron B.

Even you sounded like you were trying to talk yourself into this scenario as your question unfolded.

Nobody questions Porter’s effectiveness as a two-way player when healthy. But you said it: He has played just 29 games as a Bull. And questions about his hips date back to when he first came out of Georgetown.

I don’t know the new management regime well enough to speculate on who they like and who they don’t like. But Porter’s expiring contract if he, as expected, opts in for 2020-21 has to be viewed as the main positive. Given his injury history and that Chandler Hutchison remains on the roster — albeit rehabilitating again following shoulder surgery — I have to believe there are other long-term plans for the wing spot outside of Porter.

How does players rallying and attending protests affect the NBA’s decision to go back into playing? The league is working on strict implementation of social distancing in Orlando, but players are out on the street rallying without social distancing. If any of those players result to be positive for the coronavirus, is the NBA canceled for good this season? – Josiah R.

This is an interesting query. The short answer is: No. And the league is fully preparing for some players to test positive as it attempts its restart in Orlando. That’s why quarantine measures are being discussed.

But your question raises a larger point about all that can happen between now and July 31. The league office and players association is filled with smart leadership. Safety will be the main priority. But anyone not expecting at least hiccups (and perhaps greater) is probably naïve.

With nine months between games, how can the Bulls keep their players sharp? – Alfonso M.

This is what the eight teams excluded from Orlando are talking to the league about, and any conclusion would have to also have agreement from the players association. As we all know, teams typically can’t mandate player participation in the offseason. This is an unprecedented situation because the 2019-20 season technically isn’t over, but it kind of is for these eight teams.

Here’s a more concrete hypothetical: Let’s say the league and players association agree to allow these eight teams to engage in controlled scrimmages, a small Fall league or something along those lines. Would it be mandatory for all players, even international ones? Tomas Satoransky, for instance, has said he hopes to practice with a pro team in his native Czech Republic. Could and would the Bulls make him leave his family to participate in any formal activities that get scheduled?

It’s all unprecedented stuff. But it’s clear not playing games for over eight months is detrimental to a young team like the Bulls. That’s why there is dialogue trying to address the layoff.

RELATED: Arturas Karnisovas vows to get creative with Bulls' development in long offseason

How do you think the long layoff impacts the top contenders such as the Lakers, Clippers or Bucks? Do you think they’re in a stronger position to compete for the championship? Is there a sleeper team these teams should be aware of? – Shannon R.

Perhaps a simplistic debate would be: Does the layoff favor a veteran team because of know-how or might it make that team more injury prone, opening the door for a surprising, young athletic team? I know the Trail Blazers, who have to qualify for the playoffs via the play-in tournament, want to test this theory. They are expected to return Jusuf Nurkic and Zach Collins from long injury absences.

Count me in the veteran experience will rule the day camp, though. I see the Lakers winning it all.

Assuming the Bulls stay outside the top-five and are out of the Edwards-Ball-Wiseman-Toppin range, who do you see them targeting? I’m really intrigued by Killian Hayes personally. – Tyler L.

Hayes is at No. 5 in some mock drafts, but he certainly could address the position of need that still doesn’t seem solved at point guard. We’ll certainly find out something about the new management regime’s philosophy once the draft lottery and draft are held.

General manager Marc Eversley cited rim protection as something he values in his lone session with reporters since his hiring. Wendell Carter Jr. is adept at this because of his advanced footwork and defensive instincts, but he remains an undersized center. Do they address big man depth, believing Coby White can add point guard duties to his scoring skill set? Or do they try to solve point guard with someone like Cole Anthony and shift Tomas Satoransky to more of an off-the-ball role?

During a Saturday conference call with reporters, Karnisovas certainly sounded convinced that this draft isn’t as poor as some are projecting it to be.

Can the Bulls offer a contract extension to Zach LaVine? If so, when? – Withallo M.

If this was a typical NBA offseason, LaVine was extension eligible from July 13 to the day before the first day of the regular season. This is an atypical offseason. And given the unknown impact on the salary cap and luxury tax figures moving forward because of the pandemic, I don’t expect substantive talks to occur whenever the new dates for league business are set. LaVine has two years remaining on the four-year, $78 million offer sheet he signed with the Kings that the Bulls matched.

If you could watch one NBA game over and over again and never get tired of it, which game would it be? – Hamza B.

One with either a matinee or East Coast start time. Sorry, can never fully lose the newspaper deadline muscle memory.

Thanks for all your questions. Talk to you soon.

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. See full schedule here.

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