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Maybe we should take Arturas Karnisovas at his word: he’s feckless middle-management doing very little and saying even less

Looks like the Bulls got what they wanted

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

There’s only so many ways we can follow Bulls ‘news’ these past few months. So little has happened, and any reporting is incredibly flimsy (perhaps more than ever given lack of access).

There is somehow STILL talk of the Bulls 2019-20 season being resumed, even though I personally declared it over and for all intents and purposes a ‘resumption’ looks more like an offseason, even if it isn’t reflected that way on the financial calendar.

So in the meantime there’s plenty of speculation, ‘informed’ to varying degrees, over what the hell the Bulls and new purportedly-lead-basketball-decision-maker Arturas Karnisovas is actually doing. And some of it is based in the mindset of rationalizing: for example, that ownership is stepping in it given a worse 2020-21 financial outlook than when Karnisovas was hired.

But maybe this is all projection, to talk around what’s looking more and more clear after all these weeks in ‘the new era’: Karnisovas was a Bulls hire.

That can mean different things based on perspective. For the Bulls, it’s great: Karnisovas had no cachet coming in and won’t rock the sinking ship boat.

For Bulls fans, he sucks!

Not only has Karnisovas sat on his hands since making a few front office additions (and letting a few contracts expire), he’s also gone into hiding. Karnisovas has not spoken publicly in over two months, which was an ‘end of season’ press conference for a season they are refusing to end. In the nine weeks since, there has been little attempt and even less success in reporting on what Karnisovas is actually doing.

So instead, let’s go back to Karnisovas’s own public words, now with added perspective:

Does this sound like a dynamic empowered executive?

We want to spend time internally to assure that we are thorough in our appraisals. 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.


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. I need to be there. I need to see it for myself.


To make a decision about coaching is really hard. It’s probably the hardest thing for executives. So I look at a lot of aspects. I’ve had numerous conversations. That said, would 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.

At the time, Karnisovas included many caveats of not physically being in Chicago and seeing people in person, but he’s had a couple months of that now and still nothing. He included a mention at the time of not foreseeing any more front-office additions, and that has indeed been the case. Holdovers like John Paxson’s brother and Gar Forman’s IowaState assistant remain, as does Jim goddamned Boylen.

And retaining any of them, most egregiously the openly-mocked worst coach in the league, is not a ‘really hard decision’ requiring a ‘cultivated personal relationship’. And it’s not even consistent: Gar wasn’t allowed this evaluation, and no outside coaching candidate will allow for whatever activity Karnisovas ‘needs’ to see from Boylen. Nor is it consistent with the rest of the league: both the Knicks and Pistons are hiring and firing even though they were ‘left behind’ from The Bubble.

Maybe we were giving Karnisovas the benefit of the doubt months ago, but that really shouldn’t be the case any longer. He means what he says, and he says he’s a ponderously slow and unimpactful decisionmaker.

And that’s the Bulls way. They hired how they usually do: first-timers with limited clout. He wasn’t a poached leader in the industry - can you imagine someone at the level of Sam Presti coming in and talking/behaving like this? - nor even a right-hand man in a championship-level franchise.

The Bulls hired a second banana from a mid-market team, and Karnisovas’s lack of action combined with even less public projection of non-futile words has it looking like the Bulls got what they paid for.