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Arturas Karnisovas can’t explain himself

now we know why he doesn’t talk often, whenever he does it suggests incompetence

haven’t gotten a new Arturas photo in 2 years, this is screengrabbed

There’s no need for a recap of the Bulls trade deadline activity, because nothing was done. That’s not being hyperbolic: the Bulls were one of only two teams in the whole league that didn’t make an in-season trade before yesterday’s deadline.

There’s no need to drill down into why that wasn’t the right move.

But what was significant yesterday, given the team didn’t do anything, was that we saw for the first time all season the Bulls decision-maker Arturas Karnisovas face the public. First on Thursday afternoon after the deadline, and then the following morning on the radio partner’s morning show.

And we have an answer to why AK doesn’t speak more often: it was an appallingly poor performance.

This is not any kind of inspiring leader

The content of what he said will be the focus, and we know from these past couple of years that Karnisovas doesn’t really say much even when he does talk. But first there should be some attention paid to how awful his presentation was. For the media availability in Brooklyn, Karnisovas was poorly mic’d, and spent the whole time sighing, shrugging, and raising/lowering his hand on the table. Then for his morning radio interview, Arturas led off by saying he was in an airport and thus why he sounded poorly and had limited time.

Altogether an offensive, and likely purposeful, way to handle bare-minimum responsibilities to the media (and, by proxy, the fanbase). While an assessment of his job performance rests more on his team’s success, we can safely assess one of his job traits: he is a terrible communicator.

“Actually, if you think about it: trades are bad”

When it comes to actual words that got through all the sighs and microphone noise, I really don’t know where to start. It was all so shortsighted and stupid. But relying on gut instinct, I think this is what got me the most:

“History will tell you that a lot of trades at the trade deadline don’t help you the rest of the way. Trades will probably help you during the draft and offseason because you have more time to put the team together.

Two years ago when we made a trade and we traded five players, the result was the same – we missed out on the playoffs. It’s hard to make these kind of changes, where you change players, they come to you, they’re still in shock...”

This is just outright incompetence from someone in charge of transactions.

He’s literally saying “hey, you saw what happened with the Vuc trade, why would I do that again?”

In the follow-through to that answer above, Karnisovas literally started to say the word ‘continuity’, but changed it to ‘consistency’. While that suggests he realizes that his use of the c-word has become a joke, he definitely still believes in it.

But that belief defies credulity. Just a few quick counterarguments:

  • All these other teams make in-season changes. They’re all getting worse?
  • Another reason to make trades in-season is to get players to carry over to following seasons. That’s part of what the Vuc trade was about, right?
  • How good is your coach - who Karnisovas unequivocally praised as doing an ‘unbelievable job this year’ (no notes!) - that he can’t handle a locker room with changing pieces? Not any?
  • If keeping the roster unchanged is such an advantage, why is the team 26-29?
  • You just lost to a team that blew up their roster!

Get a load of this guy, he thinks his team is good!

A constant refrain over these two appearances was that his inactivity (sorry, Arturas claims he was plenty ‘active’, just couldn’t make a single thing actually happen) showed his confidence in his Bulls this year.

Remember just a couple days ago when Billy Donovan said he believed AK was not going to be fooled by some high-profile wins and thinking big picture?

OK, we have played a little bit better against the Milwaukee’s and some of the better teams. But sometimes in the regular season, if you play well against some of these teams, you have to look at, was it on a back-to-back? Dallas came in here with no Luka (Doncic) on a back-to-back. So sometimes the schedule — and I’m not taking anything away from our guys — we have played better against those teams.

Donovan was wrong: AK is unequivocally fooled by this!

(paraphrased) I thought one improvement with this team was more resilience...Last year we were being blown out by good teams...we flipped the script, now beating good teams, staying in games, and being competitive.

Karnisovas kept citing all of these “close losses”, including the game prior versus the Grizzlies (which...wasn’t close?) that would’ve gotten them in 8th place (!), as reason that his Bulls are not as bad as their record.

Perhaps the record should be a bit better given their performance, but flipping the luck involved in a close game here or there doesn’t actually make them a good team.

Mediocrity is not only accepted, but encouraged

Karnisovas paid some lip service to saying that he doesn’t accept mediocrity, but not only did his actions suggest otherwise, he kind of just said it outright.

Before the season, this was the stated goal:

We have to do better than last year. When you get to the playoffs as always things happen, certain teams missing one or two key players. You can get by a round; those are the expectations

To be clear, that isn’t much of a goal in the first place. It relies less on your team and more on other teams getting worse or being unlucky. But this may be one of his tenets in management, as Karnisovas did have a similar statement on Thursday when alluding to the Kevin Durant trade meaning the Nets would leave an East playoff spot open...the very same Nets team your team then lost to. [chef’s kiss]

But that was preseason, and I get that you aren’t always competing for a championship every season, even if you claim that’s the ultimate franchise goal. The problem is that in the time since, he moved the goalposts.

When asked (by Dan Weirderer, a football guy! says a lot about the Bulls media corps) what would make a successful season, Karnisovas now said the goal is simply ‘make the playoffs’.

So that is why he is confident in the season’s stretch run (he said “there’s 27/28 games to go“ so much, you guys) determining the success or failure of the season.

Now, I don’t think simply saying you’re confident will do much for this team. AK said the coaching is all great, but the team has been complacent and inconsistent. He mentioned how many of those players were good and of interest to other teams, but apparently not good enough to get value. He spoke to the team’s lack of shooting by trying to say it actually wasn’t a problem (“we make a lot of the ones we take”) though he’d like it to improve, but that was not followed up with the simple question of HOW?

All that said, it won’t be that hard for ‘his group’ to make the playoffs. And if they don’t, he’ll probably just change it to “play-in”.

But even if they have a better winning percentage down the stretch, how is that any indication of meaningful improvement? For one thing, it’s a smaller sample than the previous calendar year (anything post-Lonzo), and such a small number of games, especially in the post-deadline NBA when teams pivot to tanking or playoff positioning, shouldn’t be fooling him.

And even in Karnisovas’s hypothetical best-case scenario, it ultimately screams “mediocrity”.

That may be the biggest thing we learned from the Bulls inactivity and then Karnisovas’s stated incompetence: there is no urgency, and no real ambition. The self-owning of assessing the trade deadline by saying “there were too many buyers” and “we wanted to add, but couldn’t”, plus the constant refrain of needing more evaluation time and waiting for the’s all under the context of the Chicago Bulls ultimate goal being: try and become the 6th best team in the 2nd best conference.

And as depressing as that is to ponder, you can still also say that Arturas Karnisovas should be fired.

He can’t get to that meager goal, even after blowing through draft capital and spending up to the tax. He claims there will be changes in the offseason, but he’s handcuffed himself due to these past moves. In lieu of success, he hasn’t even provided any hope, as there has been extremely little success in young player development (don’t want to let this go: Karnisovas said player improvement happens in the offseason).

And most offensive to ownership: the Bulls are becoming a joke again. And every time Arturas talks, he adds to the embarrassment.