Bulls start free-agency period by keeping Coby White, adding Jevon Carter

With admittedly “a lot of work to do” this offseason, executive VP Arturas Karnisovas started Friday’s free agency off by keeping Coby White a Bull with a three-year deal. The team also agreed on a three-year deal with outside shooter Jevon Carter.

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Coby White

Bulls executive vice president of basketball operations Arturas Karnisovas admitted there was a lot of work to do with free agency starting on Friday, and that work started with Coby White staying home.

Charles Rex Arbogast/AP

It was Arturas Karnisovas’ deadpan dig at the offseason criticism.

The Bulls’ executive vice president of basketball operations was discussing the priority list for the summer last week and admitted that “there’s a lot of work to do.’’ He also showcased his ability to throw a sneaky jab.

“We have to get better and we’re going to address that,’’ Karnisovas said. “You’ve [the media] obviously been writing about how much work we need to do, people telling me we need to get to it, so we will address our stuff in free agency.’’

That stuff started getting addressed Friday, as the shot profile that Karnisovas wanted improved began to change.

On the first day that NBA teams could start negotiating with free agents and their representatives, the Bulls made their first splash in-house, agreeing with combo guard Coby White on a three-year deal that could worth $40 million with incentives.

Minutes later, it was confirmed that they also agreed with guard Jevon Carter on a three-year, $20-million deal to add some outside shooting. Carter shot 42.1% from three-point range last season with the Bucks.

The move to retain White was expected, as Karnisovas expressed how much the Bulls valued the restricted free agent.

Even with the backcourt additions, however, the elephant in the room remains the future of Zach LaVine.

According to several NBA sources, there will continue to be one.

LaVine, who will be starting Year 2 of a five-year, $215-million max contract, first was mentioned in trade rumors at the February deadline, with multiple reports, including the Sun-Times, saying that the Knicks were the most-involved suitor.

The seriousness of those talks was downplayed privately by the Bulls.

Where are the talks now? According to a source, the Bulls were taking calls on LaVine — not actively making them — and the asking price for the two-time All-Star remained astronomical. As far as the Knicks, they have long pivoted off LaVine.

Karnisovas was asked about the trade rumors surrounding LaVine, and of course played it like an executive was supposed to play it.

“As always, we are not going to comment on rumors,’’ Karnisovas said. “But we all were disappointed the way the season ended, and Zach was one of the guys who was very disappointed. He went into the offseason to get better and already is working with our player development in [Los Angeles] and started his work early.

“He’s trying to get better. I think a lot of our guys are working hard and trying to get better and get ready for the season. I did not follow or read [the rumors]. I am focused on what our group thinks and how we can improve this team.’’

In other words, Karnisovas has preached patience and continuity for several seasons, and seems committed to adding some tweaks to the core but staying on the current path.

While Nikola Vucevic was given a three-year, $60-million deal earlier this week, the Bulls have left themselves the flexibility to be aggressive during next February’s trade deadline.

That was the growing feeling around the league as of Friday.

Karnisovas wants to give this core one more try, and if it’s not going well during the 2023-24 season, that’s when he would look to make major changes.

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