Karnisovas, Donovan Appear To Be Safe In Chicago

Despite the Bulls‘ miserable start, president of basketball operations Arturas Karnisovas and head coach Billy Donovan don’t seem to be in danger of getting fired, meaning any changes to turn the season around will have to focus on the roster, writes K.C. Johnson of NBC Sports Chicago.

Karnisovas “has been given the green light to try to fix the current mess,” according to Johnson, who notes that ownership is typically slow to make changes to its front office. Karnisovas received an extension in the spring, which indicates the organization still has confidence in him.

Donovan is “liked and respected by both ownership and management,” Johnson adds, plus he still has multiple years remaining on his contract extension. Johnson points out that the Reinsdorfs don’t like to pay fired coaches, so Donovan isn’t likely to be dismissed, although changes may be made to his coaching staff.

Chicago dropped to 5-13 with Sunday’s loss at Brooklyn, which marked its fourth straight defeat and the seventh in its last eight games. The players understand that they’re underperforming, according to Johnson, and they know that a quick turnaround is the only way to prevent a roster shakeup.

“Rumors come with the territory,” Nikola Vucevic said. “If you’re playing well, everything is great. Everybody is talking positive about you. If you’re losing, you get criticized and rumors start. We have to deal with that. The only way to deal with it is for us to play better. That’s the only way for that to stop.”

Johnson suggests the Bulls’ core problem may be a flawed roster built around Vucevic, Zach LaVine and DeMar DeRozan. He points out that those three players have been on the court together for 370 minutes so far this season and they have a net rating of minus-13.9.

Reports earlier this month indicated that LaVine and the organization are both open to finding a deal to send him elsewhere. However, the team has placed a high asking price on the 28-year-old guard and his pricey salary and injury history are limiting interest around the league.

DeRozan, who has an expiring $28.6MM contract and reportedly hasn’t made much progress in extension talks, is also considered to be a trade candidate, along with Alex Caruso, a defensive standout with a team-friendly deal. Most of the free agents who signed contracts this summer will become eligible to be traded on December 15, so that’s when the Bulls might become active if their record hasn’t improved.

The team’s stars are hoping that won’t happen, Johnson adds, but they know the only way to keep the current roster together is to start winning.

“We all get along,” LaVine said. “Nobody wants to be 5-13 or lose multiple games in a row. It doesn’t feel good. It didn’t feel like we’d be at this point now. But that’s our reality. So we have to figure out how to get out of that hole. Try to get a win. That’s all we try to worry about.”

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