Bulls complete second round of talks with Nuggets GM Arturas Karnisovas

Bulls complete second round of talks with Nuggets GM Arturas Karnisovas

The Bulls first interviewed Arturas Karnisovas for their head of basketball operations on Tuesday, sources said, and the two parties talked again Wednesday afternoon via remote conferencing as the Denver Nuggets general manager became a centerpiece of the search.

ESPN's Adrian Wojnarowski first reported that the second interview involved Bulls chairman Jerry Reinsdorf, who, at this stage of his career, only gets involved in matters of business when they're close to being finalized. Bulls president and chief operating officer Michael Reinsdorf has orchestrated this search and, along with executive vice president John Paxson, first interviewed Karnisovas.

The Bulls hope to have the first part of the hiring process finalized sooner than later, sources said, particularly since the new hire will be granted authority to build out the front office's infrastructure. Utah Jazz general manager Justin Zanik interviewed for the position on Monday.

Also on Wednesday, news broke that the Bulls staged recent interviews with other candidates. NBC Sports Chicago reported that the Bulls interviewed former Atlanta Hawks general manager Danny Ferry, Wojnarowski's reported that the Bulls interviewed former Hawks GM Wes Wilcox and The Athletic reported that the Bulls interviewed former Raptors, 76ers and Suns executive Bryan Colangelo. Some of these interviews were less formal and, a source said, possibly scheduled for information gathering purposes or for other front-office roles.

There is substantial interest around the league for potential positions in the Bulls' revamped front office, a source said.

Following a collegiate career at Seton Hall and wildly successful international playing career that included two Olympics appearances, Karnisovas worked for the NBA for five years before joining the Rockets as an international scout. He joined the Nuggets’ front office in 2013 and was promoted to general manager under Connelly in June 2017. 

In his time in Denver, he is credited in some part for the Nuggets snaring star center Nikola Jokic with the No. 41 pick in the 2014 draft, as well as recent lottery hits, Jamal Murray and Michael Porter Jr. Along with Connelly, he helped pioneer the construction of one of the most touted international scouting departments in the league.

Sources said Karnisovas and Zanik, who also interviewed with Michael Reinsdorf and Paxson, conveyed that they view Paxson as a resource moving forward, although Paxson initiated much of this need for a more modern front office and will be stepping into an advisory role. It's unknown if Paxson was involved in the interviews of Ferry, Wilcox and Colangelo. Reinsdorf also has held solo discussions with some of the candidates. Karnisovas is the only known candidate to interview with Jerry Reinsdorf.

Whomever is hired will have full autonomy on basketball operations, including deciding the future of the coaching staff, sources said.

Yahoo Sports' Vincent Goodwill first reported Karnisovas' status as a likely front-runner.

Sources said Michael Reinsdorf, who initially expressed hesitation because of Zanik’s player agency ties, was impressed by Zanik’s communication skills, player relationships and knowledge of the collective bargaining agreement. Michael Reinsdorf has made clear he wants to build front office depth.

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Why Bulls-Pistons 1991 playoff walkoff remains iconic in Chicago sports history

USA Today

Why Bulls-Pistons 1991 playoff walkoff remains iconic in Chicago sports history

“Straight up bitches. That’s what they walked off like.”

Talk about a putback slam.

Horace Grant delivered one of the most powerful quotes of “The Last Dance” documentary.

The former Bulls power forward dunked all over the “Bad Boy” Detroit Pistons for walking off the floor in the waning moments of Game 4 of the 1991 Eastern Conference Finals.

Wednesday marks one of the most iconic anniversaries in Chicago sports history. On May 27, 1991, the Bulls beat the Pistons 115-94 en route to an emphatic series sweep. Just over two weeks later, they were NBA champions.

Up until “The Last Dance,” the most memorable takeaway from that Game 4 victory wasn’t necessarily a key play or a postgame quote. It was a number: 7.9.

That’s the amount of seconds that were left on the clock when Isiah Thomas, Bill Laimbeer and company ducked past the Bulls bench—without so much as a handshake— and eventually out of sight at the Palace in Auburn Hills.

It is one of the most iconic images in the Chicago sports canon. One could argue it belongs on a Bulls “Mount Rushmore” of images with, perhaps, Michael Jordan’s free throw line dunk in the 1988 Slam Dunk Content Or MJ weeping while holding the Larry O’Brien trophy after the ’91 Finals win over the Lakers. Or his final shot against the Jazz in 1998.

[MORE: Recounting the most memorable quotes from "The Last Dance"]

What transpired in suburban Detroit on that Memorial Day was more than just a victory or even a series sweep. It was a passing of the torch. Or, maybe, the Pistons’ torch was simply doused a’la the Wicked Witch of the West. Jordan, Scottie Pippen, Phil Jackson and company caused the “Bad Boys” to melt under the lights of a national TV broadcast and ensuing media scrutiny. 

Many Chicago fans remember the brutal, sometimes bloody Bulls-Pistons games in the handful of years up until that Monday in Motown. The Bulls lost three consecutive playoff series against the Pistons, two of which came in the conference finals. The victory was not just a flag-planting in the ground. It was a relief.

And with that win, the Bulls took more of the Chicago sports spotlight. The Ditka-era Bears were fading. The Cubs were mediocre at best. The White Sox were on the rise but were still a few years away. The Blackhawks finished first in the Norris Division that year but were bounced quickly in the playoffs. The Bulls were THE story in town.

Imagine if the Pistons had won that ’91 playoff series. That would have made four consecutive playoff headaches courtesy of the Pistons. Do the Bulls rise up again? Do the Bulls even end up getting to the 1992 NBA Finals?

Be thankful for that day in Detroit.

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Report: Ex-Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau leads list of Knicks targets

Report: Ex-Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau leads list of Knicks targets

When David Fizdale was fired by the New York Knicks in December, it was fair to assume a coaching search would come in the offseason. Now, even with the NBA season still in limbo amid the coronavirus pandemic, that search is set to begin, according to a report from Shams Charania and Mike Vorkunov of The Athletic.

At the top of their list of targets? Our old friend Tom Thibodeau, according to the report. Thibodeau has been reported as a candidate for the position in the past. The Athletic report notes that interim coach Mike Miller (17-27) and former Brooklyn Nets coach Kenny Atikinson are also expected to interview.

Thibodeau last coached in the 2018-19 season, but was fired by the Minnesota Timberwolves two-and-a-half seasons into a five-year contract. He amassed just a 97-107 (.475) record with the franchise, but helmed the 47-35 squad that snapped a 13-season playoff drought in 2017-18. The following year kicked off with the Jimmy Butler practice saga, which resulted in a trade of the star just 13 games into the season and foreshadowed Thibodeau’s eventual dismissal in January.

Thibodeau landed in Minnesota after being axed by the Bulls in the wake of the 2015 season. He led the Bulls through their winningest stretch of the 21st century, coaching to a 255-139 (.647) record from 2010-2015 that included five playoff appearances, three 50-win seasons, two first-place finishes in the Eastern Conference, an Eastern Conference finals berth and a Coach of the Year award. His resume is as stacked as any coach on the market.

The Bulls have been mired in a rebuild since his departure. The Knicks, should they land Thibodeau, will hope he can pull them out of theirs.