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A loser-bracket NBA bubble is such a bad idea I’m considering it an indictment of Arturas Karnisovas

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Karnisovas’s off to a bad start, with this impacting Jim Boylen

Western Conference Semifinals - Denver Nuggets v Portland Trail Blazers Photo by Garrett Ellwood/NBAE via Getty Images

You may have missed it heading into the holiday weekend, but: there was a report of the league, supported by the 8 terrible teams not invited to Orlando, ‘deeply discussing’ some kind of secondary loser ‘campus’ of ‘basketball games’.

Maybe nothing will come of it, the players association would have to agree (via) for one thing. It just seems like such a obviously terrible idea that maybe it was a trial balloon for Woj to float out there on a news dump day?

It’s not even so much the logistical considerations going into having organized competitive sports during a pandemic: we have seen it every day since the playoffs-sorta-bubble-sorta was announced.

It’s that, unlike what’s hopefully going to take place in Orlando with minimal incidents, there is no worthwhile motivation to do such a thing for the bottom 8 teams. The contests themselves would be meaningless. Fans wouldn’t care. I can’t imagine a network paying to air them. Maybe there is some existing contract where the owners recoup some revenue by doing this, but it would seemingly be small potatoes in contrast to the risks.

There is another motivation from the Bulls, one not (outwardly) in pursuit of revenue but some kind of nebulous ‘development time’ that they feel cheated out of by not being invited to Orlando. The Bulls are apparently not alone, here. I don’t think this is the right mindset: the Bulls, and new hire to lead basketball operations (pending evidence) Arturas Karnisovas, should look at their ignored status as an indictment for an abysmal season, not some unfair thing that is being foisted upon them. Karnisovas should use it as reason for why he is hired in the first place!

The following words from Karnisovas last month, with a more critical eye in hindsight, do not speak well to his aptitude to lead this franchise:

Karnisovas said the ideal scenario, which would have to be agreed upon between the league and players association, would be to hold team-oriented activities like practices and possibly scrimmages with other non-bubble teams.

“There’s going to be a lot of player development and individual work, but I also would like to see some team activity, as well, because there’s so much time away from the game of basketball,” Karnisovas said. “Just playing games, I would look for the league to see something like that, to simulate something like that this summer.”

“We’re exchanging a lot of conversations and proposals with the league,” Karnisovas said. “The players in the market, they’ve already been coming into the Advocate Center for individual work. So hopefully I’ll be able to see them. The players out of the market, we’ll continue talking to them. And once we have more direction from the league, we’ll propose a bunch of plans to our players for the summer.

“I’m confident because I think eight teams is a huge part of our league. And I think the league’s interest is to support those teams as well as they can. The proposed structure of some practices and some scrimmages that we would like to see this summer, I think it’s not too much to ask.”

Now, the nation is in a different place than 5 weeks ago when it comes to containment, so something like “I think it’s not too much to ask” sounded a bit better then.

And I would call it still ‘out of touch’, but apparently the league’s losers are in agreement with him. Except the Knicks, who are instead focusing on finding a new head coach.

That’s something the Bulls should be focused on as well, but inexplicably Jim Boylen is still employed. As this delay in making an easy choice dragged on, there were reports that this very scenario - a league-organized attempt at ‘activities’ - is what Boylen was sticking around for. As if a haphazard look at a likely-barren roster would provide Karnisovas with an ‘evaluation’ beyond seeing the past two half-seasons of the Boylen debacle couldn’t teach him.

(alternatively, it’s all an elaborate acquiescence to failed-evaluators John Paxson and Michael Reinsdorf, which is also bad!)

The only way a secondary bubble is a good thing for the Bulls franchise development is if it provides a demarcation point to where they can’t keep Boylen to further hamper said development. Just have an assistant run the camp, use the information to find a new coach. Perhaps you get that hire in place to start work, as it’s not until September.

Instead it could merely be a way for Boylen to somehow sell himself and that care factor, and open up conflict with players who don’t want to risk playing this year - let alone doing so for a coach they don’t want around anymore. (can’t you see rumblings after a Zach LaVine trade where the team ‘understood the camp was voluntary but were still disappointed he wasn’t in our building’?)

For the past few months, I’ve twisted myself into knots trying to rationalize all the reports of Karnisovas’s work towards ways it ultimately leads to him firing Boylen but just being Bullsy and weird about it. But the preponderance of evidence makes much more sense if you instead assume Boylen’s staying.