The Bulls interviewed Utah Jazz general manager Justin Zanik by video Monday and plan to do the same with Nuggets general manager Arturas Karnisovas this week in their search for a new head of basketball operations, sources told NBC Sports Chicago.
Zanik is in his second stint with the Jazz after working as both assistant general manager and interim general manager for the Milwaukee Bucks. He returned to Utah, where he was recently promoted, when Bucks ownership couldn’t reach agreement on lifting his interim tag and instead hired Jon Horst to replace John Hammond.
Zanik, who attended Northwestern University, previously worked as a player agent, including representing Omer Asik when he signed an offer sheet with the Houston Rockets and left the Bulls in 2012.
NBC Sports Chicago originally reported Zanik to be on Bulls president Michael Reinsdorf’s list of candidates but subsequently reported that Zanik’s ties to player agency likely would preclude him from the interview process. However, Zanik’s strong reputation for communication, cap knowledge and connections with international basketball helped him overcome the Bulls’ typical approach to agents.
Zanik was a finalist for the Philadelphia 76ers’ general manager job that went to Elton Brand before the Jazz promoted him from assistant general manager to general manager.
Karnisovas has worked in Denver since 2013 and was promoted to general manager under Tim Connelly in June 2017. He signed a contract extension in February 2019.
Following a wildly successful international playing career, Karnisovas worked for the NBA for five years before joining the Rockets as an international scout. In Denver, the management team has drafted Nikola Jokic in the second round and acquired Gary Harris in the 2014 draft as part of the three-team trade that netted the Bulls Doug McDermott.
The native of Lithuania was a finalist for the Nets and Bucks general manager positions before the Nuggets promoted him.
Coincidentally, Karnisovas was a finalist for the Bucks job with Zanik and Horst before the Nuggets promoted him and he withdrew from consideration.
It’s looking less likely that the Bulls will interview Raptors general manager Bobby Webster, who is in line for a new deal in Toronto. Through a team spokesman, the Heat said assistant general manager Adam Simon will remain with the organization after the Bulls expressed interest in talking to him. Simon grew up in Miami and, beyond his strong ties to his hometown, is well respected by Heat president Pat Riley.
NBC Sports Chicago also reported Indiana Pacers general manager Chad Buchanan to be on Reinsdorf's list of candidates, but subsequently reported that Buchanan has decided to stay with the Pacers. His close ties to Pacers president Kevin Pritchard and comfort level personally with the franchise and community are why he stayed.
Other candidates could emerge beyond Zanik and Karnisovas, including Orlando Magic assistant general manager Matt Lloyd and Los Angeles Clippers assistant general manager Trent Redden.
While executive vice president John Paxson is expected to remain in an advisory role, he has made clear to ownership he will play as small or large a role that the new hire desires. Ownership has conveyed this to potential candidates. In fact, the new hire will be allowed to assemble the front office infrastructure as he sees fit, including, ultimately, a decision on the coaching staff, sources said.