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Bulls fire Gar Forman after officially hiring Arturas Karnisovas

The former Nuggets general manager got to work last week, but the Bulls made it official Monday, naming him the executive vice president of basketball operations. They also fired Forman and reassigned John Paxson.

Gar Forman’s long tenure with the Bulls ended on Monday.
Gar Forman’s long tenure with the Bulls ended on Monday.
James Foster/For the Sun-Times

Arturas Karnisovas started the business of the Bulls front office restructure almost immediately last week, agreeing in principle to become the executive vice president of basketball operations.

The organization made the hire official early Monday afternoon.

“Arturas is one of the most respected basketball executives in the NBA,’’ team president and COO Michael Reinsdorf said in a statement. “His resume speaks for itself. I am thrilled that he is now a member of the Bulls. As the new head of basketball operations, I am confident that his vision, ability to lead and experience helping build winning teams in Houston and Denver will serve him well here. I am very pleased to welcome him and his family to the City of Chicago and have him officially join our organization.’’

Not the only bit of news to come out of the franchise, either, as they announced former VP of basketball operations John Paxson would take an advisory role, while former general manager Gar Forman was fired with two years left on his current deal, and 22 years with the organization.

“Gar Forman worked tirelessly for the Chicago Bulls organization, first as a scout and then as an executive,’’ board chairman Jerry Reinsdorf said of the Forman move. “He made many significant contributions during his time here and helped to bring some of the brightest young basketball talent to our team, from Derrick Rose, Joakim Noah and Taj Gibson to Jimmy Butler and Coby White.

“He has been a trusted advisor and friend to me over the years, and on behalf of everyone I want to thank him for his commitment to the organization. Gar will always be a part of our Bulls family.’’

As for Karnisovas, it didn’t take long for the younger Reinsdorf, Michael, to be sold on Karnisovas, 48, with a source saying the former Denver general manager was so impressive in his first interview that a second interview was scheduled almost immediately.

Both Reinsdorfs — Michael and Jerry — had done their homework on the Lithuanian-born Karnisovas leading up to the interview process, and he even far exceeded their expectations.

Playing his college basketball at Seton Hall, Karnisovas made his mark on the court overseas and in international play. That was also how he got his foot in the front-office door, eventually hired by the Houston Rockets to scout international play.

Denver took notice of him, and brought him aboard to be the team’s Assistant GM in 2013. By the 2016-17 seasons, he went to VP of Basketball Operations, before being elevated to GM in 2018.

The Bulls got a first-hand experience of how Karnisovas worked back during the 2014 draft, when the Bulls sent two first-round picks to Denver, moving up to draft Doug McDermott. The Nuggets used those two picks to select Jusuf Nurkic with the No. 16 and Gary Harris at No. 19. They then grabbed Nikola Jokic in the second round.

It was that draft that catapulted the rebuild to where Denver currently sits at 43-22, the third-best record in the Western Conference, awaiting to see if the NBA season will move forward in the wake of the coronavirus shutdown.

“This is the height of a dream for me, and I am prepared for the challenge that it presents,’’ Karnisovas said. “I grew up watching the Chicago Bulls. They represented American basketball and the NBA to a kid from Lithuania. I’ve always had a love for this franchise and to be a part of it and influence its revival is a privilege. I want to thank Jerry and Michael Reinsdorf and the entire Bulls organization for presenting me with this opportunity and welcoming me and my family to Chicago.’’