The Arturas Karnisovas train may have slowed Saturday, but work didn’t
The Bulls’ new head of basketball operations was still knee-deep in the business of a front-office rebuild, even if it seemed like a slower day for the new regime.
And on the third day, Arturas Karnisovas rested.
Not really, but at least the whispers, rumors and speculation abated Saturday. A source said Karnisovas, the Bulls’ new executive vice president of basketball operations, was still talking to potential general-manager candidates, getting permission for possible interviews and scheduling times.
It has been a whirlwind three days for this organization, a shocking departure for a franchise that plays everything close to the vest.
While most of the NBA has been in lockdown because of the coronavirus, Bulls president Michael Reinsdorf has taken advantage of the stoppage, delivering on his promise of a complete face-lift for the front office.
The news of the Bulls and Karnisovas agreeing on a deal went down late Wednesday night and into Thursday morning, and by late Friday, the no-nonsense Karnisovas already had plucked J.J. Polk from the Pelicans to be an assistant GM and player-personnel guru Pat Connelly from the Nuggets to manage that department for the Bulls.
Also, there was a list of possible GM candidates that emerged, as well as the names of other assistant GMs and up-and-coming scouts who have been tabbed for new positions in the front office.
For years, the Advocate Center — the domain of former vice president of basketball operations John Paxson and GM Gar Forman — consisted of a lot of empty offices. At this pace, Karnisovas might be asking for more office space.
So what’s left on the agenda? Plenty. And it starts with that GM role.
1. No Robin needed
Karnisovas has a lot of Batman in him, but this GM hire isn’t necessarily a Robin situation. The new-look front office will have multiple department heads, with the GM acting as a liaison who relays the information to Karnisovas.
There were two strengths that were quickly identified once the Bulls locked in on the former 6-8 shooter from Seton Hall. He was a great communicator and a great delegator. Karnisovas knows his strengths, and he knows how to find the right people to compensate for his weaknesses.
That’s why the Thunder’s Troy Weaver and the Nuggets’ Calvin Booth are on the wish list. Weaver has been considered for multiple jobs the last few years, and being a disciple of Thunder executive Sam Presti only enhances his value. Booth would be a solid get, as well, but there’s growing speculation out of Denver that he’ll stay put and assume Karnisovas’ vacated position.
Also look out for the Magic’s Matt Lloyd and the 76ers’ Marc Eversley.
2. Coaching it up
As of Saturday, Karnisovas had no definite plans to meet with coach Jim Boylen, according to a source. That doesn’t mean it won’t happen.
Expanding the front office is priority No. 1, but the NBA can announce a shutdown of the regular season at any point, and it would only be fair to let Boylen and his staff know if they need to start looking elsewhere or will be returning.
This will be Karnisovas’ decision. He will listen to input, but he has no allegiance to the current coaching staff.
One factor doesn’t bode well for Boylen and his assistants, however: They’re one of the lowest-paid coaching staffs in the league, basically ashtray money for an organization worth $3.2 billion.
3. Play on
The Bulls’ roster is young and mostly locked financially. Don’t expect much movement there, as Karnisovas and his new hires will have a year to evaluate.
The summer of 2021 is when the Bulls could see a roster shake-up. Karnisovas will get a first major roster-building test with a highly touted free-agent class that offseason.