Fixing Bulls big man Lauri Markkanen atop the front office’s to-do list
It won’t happen overnight, but new executive vice president of basketball operations Arturas Karnisovas knows that Markkanen needs to get back on a path toward greatness.
Bulls executive vice president of basketball operations Arturas Karnisovas’ to-do list is long, and some of the items on it need more attention than others.
Because of the timeline the Bulls are working on in the wake of the NBA approving a 22-team restart without them last week, being on the outside allows Karnisovas to slow-play the eventual coaching changes and hirings of more front-office positions.
He made that clear Saturday.
‘‘I take pride in being deliberate and thoughtful in my decision-making and take the weight of my decisions seriously,’’ Karnisovas said in a Zoom meeting with the media. ‘‘I’m not inclined to make evaluations prematurely to satisfy our excitement to move this team forward.’’
But making a decision about big man Lauri Markkanen isn’t something that can wait a few months.
Markkanen is coming off a season that was more enigmatic than productive. He was disappointed with his role in the offense and questioned the direction of the organization, from the coaching to the former front office.
It’s up to Karnisovas to get him back on the path to being an on-the-court difference-maker, and that process started almost immediately.
‘‘We’ve spoken to Lauri numerous times,’’ Karnisovas said. ‘‘He’s been very patient, stayed in the [Chicago] market [since the NBA shutdown because of the coronavirus]. His family is now with him.
‘‘I spoke to him about [this season]. He’s eager to get back to the gym and improve. He was disappointed by the overall result. Every player wants to win. He’s about winning, as well.
‘‘Our objective is to get the best version of Lauri next year. We agreed in conversations that this is our objective, and we’re going to try to do it. Besides that, I’ll look forward to meeting him face-to-face.’’
Communication and building relationships are among Karnisovas’ strengths. And Markkanen hasn’t been the only Bulls player to get a taste of that, either.
‘‘Arturas is very, very good as far as communicating,’’ veteran forward Thaddeus Young said. ‘‘[New general manager] Marc [Eversley] is great.
“Obviously, this is a situation where they can’t really do their job because we’re not playing basketball. I’m sure they’re anxious to really get on the job and get a grasp of things, but they’ve been great so far, as far as the communication between me and all the players. They’ve been reaching out and talking to us all and making sure they’re staying in sync with us.’’
Maybe that’s all Markkanen needs — to feel that he is in sync with what is going on as he heads into the fourth season of his NBA career.
Whether a contract extension is in the works or not, Markkanen has to get his confidence back and understand his importance to the Bulls’ rebuild. That’s what Karnisovas is trying to get him to buy into.
‘‘Before accountability, I have to have a personal relationship with him,’’ Karnisovas said. ‘‘We’ll set the expectations, which are pretty high. And it’s about improvement. Each player, from talking to them, they were disappointed with [the] result [this season]. We’re going to strive to get better.
‘‘Same thing with Lauri. We have a lot of time this offseason. We’re going to put a plan together for him. We’re going to schedule and do that.’’