The Bulls got their man, and their man is no slouch. Arturas Karnisovas, one of the more well-respected veteran executives in the NBA, is on the cusp of officially signing on to be the organization's new head of basketball operations.
The league-wide veneration for Karnivoas that has trickled out in the wake of his reported hiring is telling of his aptitude. As is the fact that, in the past four years, Karnisovas has advanced late into the interview processes for front office roles with both the Brooklyn Nets and Milwaukee Bucks, been promoted from assistant general manager to general manager of the Nuggets in 2017, and rebuked the Philadelphia 76ers when they came calling for a new general manager in 2018.
Where does that respect come from? The good news for Bulls fans is the answer to that question is multi-pronged. Since the announcement of his hiring, multiple highly-regarded ex-co-workers of Karnisovas' have come out and made their endorsements known — all for fresh reasons.
Tom Thibodeau, for one, worked with Karnisovas when USA Basketball won the gold medal at the 2014 World Cup in Spain. The former Bulls’ coach joined NBC Sports Chicago’s David Kaplan on his ESPN-AM 1000 radio show Thursday morning to discuss Karnisovas’ imminent hire to run basketball operations in Chicago.
“I think it’s a great hire for the Bulls. He’s hard working, has a lot of integrity, very pragmatic,” Thibodeau told Kaplan. “There are a lot of positive things in place there. I think he’ll add a lot to that.
“He has a great demeanor. He’s a very bright guy. I think he’ll be methodical in how he’ll analyze everything.”
Karnisovas’ connections with the international committee jump out in almost every conversation regarding the former Nuggets general manager. One of those relationships is with longtime Bulls international scout Ivica Dukan, who was instrumental along with Jerry Krause in drafting Toni Kukoc.
“As we all know, there’s a lot of talent internationally,” Thibodeau told Kaplan. “I know from my experience with Team USA, Arturas knew those players inside and out. International players were instrumental in Denver.”
Daryl Morey, the long-time general manager of the Houston Rockets and revered as a founding father of the modern front office in his own right, added his voice to that chorus in an appearance on the McNeil and Parkins Show on 670 The Score Thursday afternoon. Karnisovas got his break on the team side in Houston as an international scout, working under Morey from 2008-2012.
"Arturas is really, really great at his job," Morey told McNeil and Parkins. "He just rose through our ranks so fast, we unfortunately couldn’t keep him in Houston cause Denver had a big job for him, and now you guys have an even bigger job, and I think Bulls fans are going to be thrilled. He’s built a team from a non-contender to a contender in Denver and I think he’s got a very good chance to do that for you guys."
"He’s got a great basketball mind. He also has great judgement. And then on top of all that, he’s a great leader. So, he’s someone who, when I first got there, our international scouting was I thought a little bit behind other teams. He took it from where it was to I think one of the best in the league before he moved on to Denver."
Morey added to that endorsement descriptions of a thoughtful analyst, deft communicator and compelling salesman. All of those traits will be essential to Karnisovas as he looks to revamp the Bulls' front office and front-facing perception to players around the league. They stem from his path from decorated international player to highly-regarded executive, and should help in the recruiting process.
"I think he’s almost like the perfect combo you might want," Morey said on The Score of the weight Karnisovas puts on analytics versus his instincts as a former player. "That’s not his lead thing (analytics), but what I can tell you is what he will do — and what he did do for us — is he understands it, he knows who to hire, he knows when to use it, when not to use it. He’s very thoughtful about it. And I think over his time with us and then with Denver, who is also a very advanced team, very well run by Tim (Connelly) there. You know, he’s able to take that information, contextualize it and make great decisions with it, and that’s where you’ll see his strengths.
"He lives and breathes basketball, and I’m excited for you guys to get to know him better because he’s a great human being. He’s frankly a much better communicator and someone that people just want to be around (more) than myself, and I think that’s another real skill for him that will come to play in free agency. Players are gonna really want to work with him."
P.J. Carlesimo coached Karnisovas at Seton Hall before Karnisovas went back overseas to play professionally. He sang praises most high to Waddle & Silvy Thursday afternoon, also on ESPN-AM 1000.
"He will," Carlesimo told Waddle & Silvy when asked if Karnisovas could put the Bulls back on the map. "I think they've got somebody that understands how you build a team... He understands people maybe moreso than anything. People are going to love him when they meet him, when they hear him talk.
"I really think this is going to be a home run for the Bulls."
That should be music to Bulls' fans ears. Karnisovas' work is just getting started — and a modicum of patience should be afforded — but his track record and sterling reputation leave every indication that he's up to the task ahead.
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