Bulls

Minus Jimmy Butler and Dwyane Wade, Bulls get blown out by Warriors

Minus Jimmy Butler and Dwyane Wade, Bulls get blown out by Warriors

OAKLAND — Winning a game at Oracle Arena is almost an impossible task under normal circumstances for even the best of teams.

Subtract Jimmy Butler.

Subtract Dwyane Wade.

So when the odds are recalibrated, giving a roster that's the equivalent of the land of misfit toys a chance to win — meaning it would take something miraculous.

It didn't look as bad as the score indicated, but the Bulls never truly felt in it despite the relatively mild 123-92 outcome Wednesday night at Oracle Arena.

Since the Bulls pulled off an improbable win at Oracle on Jan. 27, 2015, the Warriors have lost just five regular-season games on this floor, and there would be no miracle to be had Wednesday night.

Kevin Durant wasn't a member of the Warriors during the last Bulls win, and he was chief reason there wouldn't be a second one as he slashed through the lane for dunks and popped out for easy triples on his way to 22 points and 10 rebounds in a relatively sweat-free performance.

It was pretty easy for the Warriors because the Bulls had seven first quarter turnovers, helping an already-focused Warriors team ready to atone after a bad outing in Sacramento filled with a little controversy between Draymond Green and Durant.

In other words, just what the Bulls needed — an angry team. After an 11-11 start, the Warriors went on a 13-0 run that put some distance between the two, having the Bulls playing catch-up all night.

"They came out the gate with a big lead," Bulls coach Fred Hoiberg said. "It's a team that lost and had some time to recover and regroup, especially when there's controversy that sounds like mostly b.s., it's a tough team to come out and play against."

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Klay Thompson came on after a slow first half to score 26, and Green — the man who'll forever live in Bulls' fans nightmares — scored 16 with seven rebounds and four assists.

"We know they didn't have their whole team, but we still tried to play our game and get better. And keep growing," Durant told CSNChicago.com in the immediate aftermath.

"I think we're moving in the right direction. I've never been 44-8 on a team before."

Robin Lopez and Taj Gibson led the Bulls with 17 and 15 points, respectively, getting inside for some easy baskets against the stingy, aggressive Warriors, but they were the only ones with a flow.

"That's what we wanted to do coming out. I thought we missed them numerous times when they had (defenders) on their back and we ended up turning it over," Hoiberg said. "We gotta do a better job so we can take advantage."

Michael Carter-Williams' recent magic seemed to wear off, and Jerian Grant also struggled as the Bulls were under 40 percent for most of the night.

If there were some foolish observers who dared claim Butler and Wade were holding back the development of the younger players, that blew up in smoke quite quickly as there was little creativity in terms of shot creation unless Rajon Rondo's 12 points and seven assists truly count in that way.

But it was a meritocracy of shots — shots that missed all night as the Bulls never led and shot 42 percent, trailing by double figures nearly from the onset.

It didn't mean Fred Hoiberg didn't try seemingly everything in his limited bag of tricks to keep some form of pace with the team that probably represents everything he would want his team to be, as he played Isaiah Canaan and finally gave Denzel Valentine some run after his stint in the D-League.

And to some degree the Bulls were hanging in there, limiting resident snipers Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson to just 5-for-14 shooting in the first half.

But when Thompson hit two corner triples to start the third quarter, Hoiberg was forced to call a timeout, the Bulls down 20 before they even blinked — as Thompson's first five made baskets were all 3-pointers.

To that point, the Bulls were 1-for-11 from the long line.

And it didn't get much better. They finished 4-for-24 from 3, with the Warriors hitting 15 triples on their way to an easy win.

Arturas Karnisovas pledges to make bounceback plan with Lauri Markkanen

Arturas Karnisovas pledges to make bounceback plan with Lauri Markkanen

The case of Lauri Markkanen’s third-year regression is multi-pronged.

Across the board, the one-time wunderkin’s production sank, his minutes and opportunity in the offense fluctuated, and his general assertiveness seemed to wane. What’s to blame for the disappointing campaign? Some combination of Markkanen, the Bulls’ coaching staff, teamwide tumult, and, perhaps, too-lofty expectations to begin with. Injuries — respective oblique (soreness) and ankle (sprain) ailments he played through, and a stress reaction in his pelvis that sidelined him 15 games — undoubtedly played a role, as well.

Regardless of the culprit of Markkanen’s woes, if the Bulls’ rebuild is to get back on track, their second cornerstone must rebound in Year 4 and beyond. New general manager Marc Eversley has pledged to “learn more about” the reasons behind Markkanen’s struggles in pursuit of that mission.

Arturas Karnisovas did the same in an end-of-season conference call with reporters Saturday, adding that he’s personally spoken to Markkanen, who remained in the Chicago area throughout the NBA’s hiatus, on multiple occasions. The fruits of those conversations appear to be positive thus far, with hunger to improve a theme.

“We’ve spoken to Lauri numerous times. He’s been very patient, stayed in the market. His family is now with him,” Karnisovas said. “I spoke to him about last year. He’s eager to get back to the gym and improve. He was disappointed by the overall result (last season). Every player wants to win. He’s about winning, as well. Our objective is to get the best version of Lauri next year. We agreed in conversations that this is our objective, and we’re going to try to do it.”

Also worth adding to the to-do list could be hammering out a long-term extension with Markkanen, who is eligible for one when the offseason officially strikes. Karnisovas didn’t address that dynamic with reporters, instead impressing the importance of getting under the same roof and laying the foundation for a strong personal relationship with Markkanen before jumping to any conclusions.

“I’ll look forward to meeting him face-to-face. Before accountability, I have to have a personal relationship with him,” Karnisovas said.

That quality of Karnisovas’ thoughtful leadership style has permeated the decision-making process on head coach Jim Boylen’s future, as well. Karnisovas reiterated what has been widely reported in the call: A decision on Boylen is not imminent, and will wait until Karnisovas (who is “on the way” to Chicago) is able to meet Boylen in person and establish a relationship with him.

As for Markkanen, expectations remain high, even after a down year. And fulfilling that expectation will be a collaborative process, to hear Karnisovas tell it. That and management clearly viewing Markkanen as an asset worth pouring time and resources into are refreshing sentiments.

“We’ll set expectations, which are pretty high,” Karnisovas said. “And it’s about improvement. Each player, from talking to them, they were disappointed with last year’s result.

“We’re going to strive to get better. Same thing with Lauri. We have a lot of time this offseason. We’re going to put a plan together for him. We’re going to schedule and do that.”

Indeed, with the Bulls excluded from the NBA’s 22-team resumption plan, a potential nine-month-plus layoff between games looms. For a team as young as these Bulls, that type of dry spell has the potential to be detrimental to development and continuity. In that vein, Karnisovas said he’d favor “some team-oriented activities… practices and possibly scrimmages” as curriculum for the eight teams not assembling in Orlando as a way to stay loose. 

The bright side to all of the above: The fresh-faced front office has nothing but time to address all that riddled the Bulls in 2019-20. Player development, which begins with relationships, will clearly be a tenet of the new regime. And there’s no better place to begin putting their words on that topic to action than with Markkanen.

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Arturas Karnisovas makes clear why Jim Boylen decision will take time

Arturas Karnisovas makes clear why Jim Boylen decision will take time

Arturas Karnisovas knew questions about Jim Boylen’s future were coming.

So the Bulls’ new executive vice president of basketball operations tackled them in his opening statement during a Saturday conference call with reporters.

“We want to spend time internally to assure that we are thorough in our appraisals. Our intention was to return to play at some point and have the opportunity to make informed decisions. There are several unprecedented circumstances beyond our control. We have been limited in certain obvious ways. So our objective is to use this time in innovative ways to create opportunities for our players and coaches to encourage development,” Karnisovas said. “I know that you are anxious for me to comment definitively on our future of the Chicago Bulls. I understand that anticipation. That said, I take pride in being deliberate and thoughtful in my decision-making and take the weight of my decisions seriously. I’m not inclined to make evaluations prematurely to satisfy our excitement to move this team forward. I deeply respect and value the role of media, and I look forward to getting to know you all, as I believe we share a passion to see success of Chicago sports franchises.”

Translated: Prepare to wait.

An unprecedented offseason only adds another layer to Karnisovas’ decision on Boylen and Boylen’s staff, especially given Karnisovas’ reputation as one who believes in building genuine relationships.

“Coaching in the league is very difficult. To make a decision about coaching is really hard. It’s probably the hardest thing for executives,” Karnisovas said. “So I look at a lot of aspects. I’ve had numerous conversations. That said, I’d like to be in a building, to be in practices, to be around the coaching staff in meetings. We’re looking forward to getting in the video room together, analyze the games, to watch games together.

“Talking to players and coaches, obviously everyone is disappointed with the results last year. They (the Bulls) definitely underperformed. Watching games, I’m excited to watch because there’s a lot of talent on this team. In order for me to keep players and coaches accountable, I have to have personal relationships with them. That’s what I need to cultivate. That’s my objective this offseason.”

And indeed, it will be a long offseason. There is not yet a definitive start date for the 2020-21 season, though it will almost certainly be in December. That gives time for Karnisovas, who said he’s “on the way” to Chicago soon, to form relationships.

After hiring general manager Marc Eversley, vice president of player personnel Pat Connelly and assistant general manager J.J. Polk, Karnisovas said he plans no further additions or changes to the front-office staff. That means holdovers like associate general manager Brian Hagen, assistant general manager Steve Weinman and director of pro personnel Jim Paxson are safe for now.

“I really take pride in my relationships that I cultivate with coaching staffs and my basketball operations staffs. I haven’t seen them. I’m looking forward to it,” Karnisovas said. “I think after we found out that we were left out of the bubble in Orlando, we’ll have all the time in the world to (get to know everyone). So I’m looking forward to that.

“As much as we talk on the phone, they don't know me. So that is my number one priority when I get in the city, when I get in the building, is to get to know our coaching staff, meet the players and start the process of getting to know each other. And again, before the accountability, I have to know them before we keep each other accountable. So I will cultivate a selfless attitude with the players and there's not going to be any excuses. The youth, the injuries, all that stuff is not going to be an excuse moving forward, because this group is too talented not to perform better.”

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