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Bulls’ front-office restructuring already has more misses than hits

The interview process started Monday with Jazz general manager Justin Zanik, but the Bulls might be haunted by the executives who pulled their names off the franchise’s target list.

 Bulls chief operating officer Michael Reinsdorf  is looking to remake the team’s front office.
Bulls chief operating officer Michael Reinsdorf is looking to remake the team’s front office.
Maria Cardona/ Sun-Times

The Bulls were never really hunting for Thunder general manager Sam Presti or Masai Ujiri, the Raptors’ president of basketball operations — two white whales the S.S. Reinsdorf knew couldn’t be caught.

In that regard, maybe the Bulls’ search for a big-name front-office executive who could give the team a new voice and better direction was always going to be underwhelming.

That feeling continued Monday, with more news about who else is out of the running.

According to Toronto media, Raptors general manager Bobby Webster is close to landing a new deal to keep his current role. Meanwhile, Adam Simon, the Heat’s vice president of basketball operations and assistant general manager, also is staying put. He has been with the team for decades, starting as a video coordinator.

The Simon news was the bigger blow because Bulls chief operating officer Michael Reinsdorf reportedly has had his eye on the Heat’s operating model. One executive told the Sun-Times on Monday that poaching Simon would have been the best way for the Bulls to go, giving them instant credibility as they restructure their front office.

Over the weekend, Pacers general manager Chad Buchanan also pulled out of the interview process, opting to stay in Indiana.

A source close to the situation said the Bulls interviewed Jazz GM Justin Zanik by video on Monday, with Nuggets GM Arturas Karnisovas scheduled to do the same.

Zanik, who attended Northwestern and was a player agent before becoming an NBA executive, is more than just a “cap guy,’’ building a solid reputation as a communicator with an understanding of how to delegate scouting and player -development.

Karnisovas’ strength is scouting — both at the college level and internationally — and he also has been instrumental in key deals that have helped re-establish the Nuggets as a threat in the Western Conference.

As previously reported in the Sun-Times, the Bulls’ search is being led by Michael Reinsdorf, with his father, chairman Jerry Reinsdorf, a key figure in the background and in the final decision-making.

The source close to the situation said Bulls vice president of basketball operations John Paxson did not participate in the Zanik interview and has moved to the background by choice. Even if he’s no longer involved in day-to-day basketball decisions, Paxson is expected to retain a key role with the Bulls, acting as a sounding board and adviser to the Reinsdorfs.