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Bulls Media Day recap: the facile self-assessments and goals-settings will continue until morale improves
same old team, same old talking points. As DeMar said, maybe third time is the charm!
There isn’t much to what was said at the opening of the 2023-24 training camp on Monday that wasn’t said at the end of last season.
In both instances Bulls head basketball executive Arturas Karnisovas used Billy Donovan as a deflector shield as Karnisovas, after months of prep, continued to go to his same lame uninspiring talking points, even if the face of abject failure on the court. It was likely an unwinnable battle for the hearts and minds of frustrated Bulls fans after everything done (or not) by this front office the past two years, but still discouraging to hear.
AK still “believes in this group”. He still points to nonsense like “we were more competitive against good teams” as indicators of progress. He still cites the parity in the Eastern conference and Miami’s playoff run from the 8th seed as reasons why simply making the playoffs is a goal.
Altogether it was another bombardment of indicators to fans of this supposed glamour-market franchise that their goals include being competitive with the good teams, not to actually be a good team.
It is bizarre that the Bulls continue to not only fail to even attempt to distance themselves from the middle but they actually lean into it. They were asked by the assembled beat media about the Bucks and Celtics continuing to load up on talent (and payroll costs). Karnisovas didn’t really know how to answer, and I kind of understand. It’d be like asking the Bulls from Durham in baseball’s minors about the Yankees. The Chicago NBA team is ‘competing’ in a different league than Milwaukee or Boston.
In that context, it actually makes some sense that Karnisovas literally said the words “giving more time for this group to figure it out”. Because this is a mid franchise with a mid-to-bad executive executing that mid ‘vision’, where they’re satisfied not in competing for wins but competing for competitive losses.*
*and damnit, this is so stupid that anyone would even give AK the benefit of the doubt** that his “we played better against good teams” victory lap is even true. They did improve their record from the season prior, but were they actually better? Were there any caveats applied to opponent rest or apathy? Does it actually suggest they are better than their record and will have a better record next season? (no, it doesn’t)
**come to think of it, while nobody cares enough to debunk it, at least nobody cares enough to repeat it as truth either.
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While not exhibiting outright smugness like at the post-draft press conference, AK did express confidence in his team one can only believe through self-delusion.
In a rarer sight, there was an actual acknowledgement of problems (shooting, pace, offensive rebounding, drawing fouls) but though Billy Donovan did his verbose-coachspeak routine to say how change was achievable, we all know how difficult that will be when there was so little change in the roster, plus last year seeing the team’s best players all fortunately playing a ton of minutes last year. Karnisovas himself even said “we know what we’re getting with Zach/DeMar/Vuc”, and that it would be the young players improvement along with the 2 new additions to the rotation somehow fundamentally changing the team’s offense.
And then there was AKME’s newest point of potential improvement, tested out on that radio interview last week. Where a problem isn’t the players, or the coaching, but more a certain je ne sais quoi. Karnisovas even had the audacity to say his team was “complacent” last offseason, a summer where his own activity was signing two semi-retired free agents. This “important” goal for the 2023-24 Chicago Bulls, starting with their off-campus training camp, is to improve team cohesion.
From AKME’s perspective, this nebulous term is a quality goal to set, as it is impossible to measure and in April after another waste of a season where they finish anywhere from 7th to 11th place in the bad conference they can say they achieved it and nobody will care to question it.
AK confirmed they are negotiating an extension with DeMar DeRozan but declined to provide more details. I haven’t really said much about this because I don’t understand the urgency in doing an extension now so the lack of rumor around it made sense. Unless there’s a big discount agreed to that makes DeMar more attractive as a trade asset, no need to extend him beyond age 34, in my opinion.
I’ll give Zach LaVine this: when not using his agency-bought hatchetman and instead speaking directly, he is diplomatic and sensible when it comes to his standing in the league, saying today that he’s not bothered by trade talks and is committed to the Bulls by virtue of signing that contract and the rest isn’t up to him.
Counter this with Nikola Vucevic, who compared himself to the league MVP and said his re-signing was in part dependent on being promised a bigger role in the offense. Luckily for Vuc, the very small group of people that agree he’s a top starting center includes the guy negotiating that contract extension (plus Stacey King).
At least there was no previously-unreported summer injury the Bulls unveiled today? I was kind of expecting that.