Bulls’ big problem has a name, but bosses unlikely to do much about it

What Arturas Karnisovas and Marc Eversley have done in their GarPax takeover is masterfully avoid the problem, which is sitting on the bench — coach Billy Donovan.

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Expect more of the same from coach Billy Donovan and the rest of the Bulls.

Expect more of the same from coach Billy Donovan and the rest of the Bulls.

Michael Reaves/Getty Images

So, the “noise” being heard and made seems to be everywhere but here. Again. The NBA noise every season that is their offseason. Where moves are made and organizations do their best fake impersonations of elevating. Woj bombs and Shams’ rocks. Rumors rumoring. NBA Insiders from inside Secaucus, New Jersey (NBA headquarters), to no-named YouTubers with no names claiming even their bear-minimalist knowledge is more accurate than anyone’s on where Portland should trade Damian Lillard, where James Harden’s eventually going to end up and what strategy the Lakers are going to use to convince D’Angelo Russell — after giving him a $37 million extension — that, “Yeah, son, you probably comin’ off the bench this season. Be happy.”

All the while, the news, stories, intel, leaks, realities and narratives about the Bulls during the lead-into and origins of Week 1’s free-agency escapades centered around the same silent noise that has been their offseason — and ours with them — for what has become now the third in a row.

Nikola Vucevic got his bag. Staying here contractually for at least the next three years for the low cost of $60 million is the new exercise-in-patience trend that will become more narrative-than-fact since the Nuggets proved patience has virtue when it comes to winning an NBA crown. Coby White got his carry-on bag. DeMar DeRozan’s going nowhere. Patrick Williams is not being shopped. Alex Caruso is locked in. And, as of the writing of this column, Zach LaVine will continue to be to the Bulls what Devin Booker is to the Suns and Jaylen Brown is to the Celtics: the single player they can’t do without but whose name is the first to come up when talking about why the team hasn’t/can’t/won’t move forward.

Keeping the “core intact” is a smart but too often overrated strategy used by teams who either really haven’t figured out what to do or will never admit they really don’t know what it is they are doing.

Unless the Bulls are the secret third team involved in helping Dame get to Miami, then it might be safe to say this upcoming season’s squad is going to look as similar to last season’s as Jimmy Butler does to Jamie Foxx. Sure, adding Torrey Craig and doing what the Bears didn’t do in bringing a J. Carter to Chicago can be looked at as upgrades, but are they really the ones to remind us that this “core” was a 6-seed in the East’s playoffs two years ago and had a one-point lead with less than 150 seconds left in last year’s play-in game against the team that went to the Finals?

The problem is we don’t want to own up to what the problem is. Neither do the Bulls.

Yes, the Lonzo Ball problem has been a problem. A major one but not the one. Getting Fred VanVleet woulda been dope but wouldn’ta solved the problem. Grant Williams signing here instead of Dallas would have been just as dope but still not put them on that Eastern Conference Final Four trajectory we all know roster-wise they seemed capable of being and still feel capable of becoming. At least once. And now that the next “international superstar of basketball mystery” Vasilije Micic is out of the Bulls’ outside-looking-in plans (but watch what he’ll do with/for the Thunder), we’re now forced to face the realization that even the greatest roster adds would not have put this organization into a Kendrick Perkins “threat to the throne” mention or force Caesars Sportsbook to rethink their current +12500 championship odds.

Because what Arturas (Karnisovas) and Marc (Eversley) have done in their GarPax takeover is masterfully avoid the problem. After watching the heart and soul of their team leave itself in the opening-round series against the Bucks in 2022, after realizing their 2-20 record during that regular season against all other playoff teams was way more affirmation than aberration, after not even being honest enough with themselves to see that that team’s reaction and follow-up was to further underachieve with a two-games-under-.500 season with an undeserved spot in the play-in, they’ve avoided that hard look in the mirror and still act as if there isn’t a singular existing problem they as president and GM have the controls to fix staring back at them.

One which could give this kept core intact and currently constructed roster a for-real-for-real chance to discover who they can be as a unit despite playing for an organization where the ownership seems perfectly comfortable being stuck exactly where they are.

The Bulls have a Billy Donovan problem. Full stop. But it won’t stop.

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