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The Bulls front office spoke for the first time all season, but action at the deadline will say a lot more

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didn’t say anything but still

2020 Chicago Bulls NBA Draft Team Operations Room Photo by Joe Pinchin/NBAE via Getty Images

I thought it was getting pretty goddamned weird that we were months into their first season running basketball operations and we had yet to hear from Arturas Karnisovas or his staff. I mean, I don’t need a Danny Ainge level of interaction where you go on the radio every week and say you were ‘close’ to making moves, but still some acknowledgement of having the job would be nice.

It apparently took the arbitrary designation of ‘last home game before the All-Star break’ (reminiscent of the exact day Boylen was fired) to get Karnisovas out in front of the media.

Good!

I mean, he managed to say pretty much nothing over the course of 16 minutes, but ‘pretty much nothing’ is better than silence.

Unfortunately, we have little insight into how Karnisovas wants to run things because he hasn’t done much. Reporters don’t know him as he came from outside the area, and they haven’t been afforded any in-person reporting due to Covid protocols.

So up until yesterday we got this kind of nonsense from KC Johnson:

Here’s one thing you consistently hear about Artūras Karnišovas from people who have known him a long time: He has a strong vision for how he wants to build a team.

What does this mean? Nobody knows what this means, but it’s provocative!

I’m taking all the discussion over Karnisovas’s ‘ability to build relationships’ or whatever with a grain of salt. I am not impressed that he watches film with Wendell Carter, or that he has a texting relationship with Jamal Murray, or that he and Billy Donovan have a deep connection. Just replace the subject with Jim Boylen’s legendary care factor and you’ll start to get queasy. Take the anecdote of Karnisovas pounding the hockey padding while watching last night and start to eye-roll remembering legendary tales of competitor Johnny redass Paxson tossing over locker room spreads.

None of this matters. At least, not until it helps Karnisovas get better players.

So what about that? Well, again, we didn’t (and never were) going to get some illuminating answer on this topic, but it was spoken about:

“Expanding the playoffs to 10 teams and then two or three are still delusional and think that they can make it to 10, I think that makes a very interesting trade deadline.

...

“I never look at player as trade commodities. Right now, we’re focused on winning games, because the separation between fourth and 10th place is a game-and-a-half. So this group is doing pretty well. I think now 12 or 13 are in (the playoff mix) in the East. So I just think teams are going to try to improve, and there’s not going to be a lot of sellers. So I think we’re just going to focus on our guys and how to get them better.”

I think the lack of sellers is a concern, and something predicted prior to the season when Karnisovas stated he had no goals yet and just wanted to evaluate the current roster.

I found those comments to be more embarrassing than others did, who rationalized there certainly would be some kind of action around the trade deadline.

I didn’t expect that as much given the new playoff format Karnisovas mentioned, but his inactivity in the offseason did produce a benefit that I did not expect: that Thad Young’s trade value did in fact increase.

That’s great, Karnisovas gambled and won, but only if he takes his winnings and cashes in Thad at his highest value. He says he doesn’t look at Thad as a trade commodity, but as a basketball front office he undoubtedly does.

The ‘focus on our guys’ strategy has gone pretty well, I think. Karnisovas should be fairly pleased with it. The question remains though: is he not satisfied, or is he one of the mentioned ‘delusional’ teams content with hanging around in the dogshit conference?

(or, as a not-too-outlandish conspiracy theory third answer to that question, did he take the job with an edict from ownership not to spend any more money on this fan-less season)

Karnisovas slipped in some Paxsonian rhetoric when mentioning how ‘difficult’ it will be to make moves. I’m hoping that talk ends after the deadline, implying he actually made his first trade since taking over. It doesn’t have to be an outright seller move where Thad Young is traded for a 2nd round pick. Heck it’s not unreasonable to think making the playoffs matters more, so you can even buy a bit, as little as churning the back end of the roster and/or using the rest of the mid-level exception to sign somebody.

Either way, Karnisovas should show this ‘strong vision’ by enacting it.