Arturas Karnisovas

Bulls Notes: Ball, Karnisovas, Domercant, Bradley

New starting Bulls point guard Lonzo Ball anticipates that he will operate more as a “traditional” point guard within Chicago’s offense, writes Rob Schaefer of NBC Sports Chicago. Ball suggested that with his prior team, the Pelicans, he served more as a wing who sought openings for jump shots and defended across a variety of positions than a true point guard.

“Just getting back to being more of a traditional point guard where I’m comfortable at,” Ball said during the Bulls’ Media Day. “Last year was different for me, but whatever coach asks me, I’m going to do to the best of my abilities. This year, it’s looking like I’m going to be playing point guard a lot, so that’s what I’m trying to do.”

Bulls team president Arturas Karnisovas spoke about hoping that Ball, 6’6″ and athletic could help speed up and diversify the Bulls’ offense. “He likes to play fast,” Karnisovas said. “He likes to advance the ball, to guard. He can be a primary ballhandler, or he can play as a secondary ballhandler.”

There’s more out of the Windy City:

  • Karnisovas opined that Chicago’s 2021 trade deadline moves, primarily the addition of All-Star center Nikola Vucevic, signaled that the team was serious about improving the talent around All-Star shooting guard Zach LaVine, per K.C. Johnson of NBC Sports Chicago (Twitter link). Karnisovas also noted that Chicago’s newfound commitment to creating a winning culture helped draw some of the team’s top free agent targets.
  • The Bulls’ NBA G League affiliate, the Windy City Bulls, have promoted Henry Domercant, an assistant coach on the club since 2018, to become the team’s fourth head coach, per a team press release. Domercant hails from Naperville, Illinois, a suburb about 30 miles away from Chicago — and roughly 30 miles away from the Windy City Bulls’ home arena in Hoffman Estates. “As a lifelong Chicagoland guy, the Chicago Bulls franchise has always been special to me and I’m grateful to the organization for the opportunity to lead the Windy City Bulls,” Domercant said. “Over the last five years, the Windy City Bulls have brought a high level of basketball to the Northwest Suburbs, and I am excited to build upon that success.”
  • New Bulls reserve center Tony Bradley appears to be fully aware of his role heading into his first year in Chicago, writes K.C. Johnson of NBC Sports Chicago“I feel like I play to the best of my ability on defense, the pick-and-roll defense, to protect the rim,” Bradley, 23, said after the team’s first training camp session of the new NBA year. “I know I’m no high-flyer. But I do know how to get shots before they leave the hand instead of all the way up top. So I think I’m pretty good at it, pretty solid.”

Central Notes: LaVine, Vaccines, Warren, Garza, Smith, Livers, Pacers

While the Bulls have yet to sign Zach LaVine to an extension, executive vice president of basketball operations Arturas Karnisovas promises that the organization is committed to their high-scoring wing, according to Joe Cowley of the Chicago Sun-Times.

“The one thing we know is that we’re committed to Zach,’’ Karnisovas said. “We want him to be in Chicago for a very long time. I think the trade deadline and free agency moves kind of proved that.’’

That message is resonating with LaVine.

“It means a lot hearing that from them,’’ he said. “I think you guys know I’m a team-first guy, I’m excited with all the moves that were made, and really looking forward to getting into camp and getting to know these guys and getting the season started because we all have a lot to prove.”

LaVine was also asked for his input on offseason moves, Cowley tweets.

We have more from the Central Division:

  • Karnisovas said the Bulls are not 100% vaccinated but “pretty close,” K.C. Johnson of NBC Sports Chicago tweets.
  • Pacers coach Rick Carlisle hopes T.J. Warren can make a swift recovery from the stress fracture in the navicular bone in his left foot, Akeem Glaspie of the Indianapolis Star reports. “Hopefully, it’ll be weeks and not months, that’s the hope,” Carlisle said. “It’s important for him to keep a very upbeat view of things. The healing process with people is always better and more aggressive when you have a great attitude about it and he has.” Warren has not suffered any setbacks but the location of the injury makes for a tricky rehab, Glaspie adds.
  • The Pistons converted rookie center Luka Garza‘s two-way contract into a two-year standard deal this week. It’s a minimum-salary contract, Keith Smith of Spotrac tweets, The first year is guaranteed and Detroit has a team option for 2022/23. If it’s picked up, the second year will also be fully guaranteed.
  • Chris Smith, who suffered a torn ACL in January playing for UCLA, is looking at a couple more months before he’s back, Omari Sankofa II of the Detroit Free Press tweets. The Pistons signed the forward to a two-way contract in August. Another Pistons rookie forward, second-round pick Isaiah Livers, is aiming for clearance to return from his foot injury at the beginning of November, Rod Beard of the Detroit News tweets.
  • The Pacers’ arena has officially been renamed Gainbridge Fieldhouse, according to a team press release. It’s a multi-year partnership, replacing the former name Bankers Life Fieldhouse. Gainbridge, a Group 1001 company, is a self-managed digital platform providing clients with direct access to financial products to grow their savings.

Central Notes: Budenholzer, Pistons, Stewart, Karnisovas

Mike Budenholzer‘s job status with the Bucks could hinge on whether they advance past the Nets in the playoffs, Adrian Wojnarowski said on an ESPN broadcast (hat tip to the New York Times’ Adam Zagoria). Milwaukee’s early exit last season, plus the addition of Jrue Holiday, has put more pressure on Budenholzer to guide the franchise on a deep playoff run. Budenholzer is the third season of a four-year contract.

We have more from the Central Division:

  • The major focus for the Pistons in the short run will be their lottery pick, but what GM Troy Weaver and his inner circle do after the draft will be even more telling, according to Keith Langlois of Pistons.com. Detroit won’t be anywhere near as active as it was last offseason, when Weaver did major roster reconstruction. The next major move after the draft, either in free agency or a trade, could be focused on making the roster more whole by improving the team’s 3-point shooting.
  • Pistons center Isaiah Stewart, who was selected No. 16 in last year’s draft, admits he keeps tabs on the players selected ahead of him as a motivation tool, he told James Edwards III of The Athletic“Throughout the entire season, I’ve kept track of my rookie peers and peers at my position, as well, to see what they’re doing and what the media said about them going into the draft, how they were all hyped up. … I don’t let it distract me in the wrong way. It adds fuel to my fire. I just take notes.”
  • Arturas Karnisovas, the Bulls’ executive VP of basketball operations, was Denver’s assistant GM when the Nuggets drafted this year’s MVP, Nikola Jokic, in the second round. That experience could help Karnišovas uncover another gem for the Bulls, K.C. Johnson of NBC Sports Chicago writes. Karnisovas surrendered two lightly-protected first-round picks to acquire Nikola Vučević, placing an even greater premium on making savvy picks that the Bulls do possess in the future, Johnson adds.

Central Notes: D. Smith, LeVert, Wade, Bulls

Pistons guard Dennis Smith Jr., acquired in a trade with the Knicks on February 7, has shown flashes since that deal of the potential that made him a lottery pick in 2017. Smith has averaged 8.3 PPG, 3.2 RPG, 3.8 APG, and 1.3 SPG for Detroit, and had his best game on Wednesday, putting up a triple-double with 10 points, 11 rebounds and 12 assists in a win over the Raptors.

Smith and teammate Mason Plumlee were the first Pistons players to put triple-doubles in the same game in 57 years (link via Pistons.com). Before joining his new team, Smith had only played in three games for the Knicks this season and had requested to play in the G League.

Here’s more out of the Central Division:

  • Pacers guard Caris LeVert has progressed to doing practice drills, and 1-on-1 training, tweets Scott Agness of Fieldhouse Files. LeVert underwent surgery to remove a previously unknown kidney cancer in January after being traded to the Pacers in the four-team trade that sent James Harden to Brooklyn.
  • Cavaliers second-year forward Dean Wade, who recently had his 2020/21 salary guaranteed, has started in the last five games after no prior starts in his first 35 NBA games. Most recently, he had 17 points and six rebounds against the Pacers on Wednesday. “I never doubted myself,” Wade said, via Chris Fedor of Cleveland.com. “Obviously, through the whole journey, every once in a while, you’re going to think, ‘Can I do it?’… “I’ve always believed in myself.”
  • Tension between a head coach and a GM has been a recurring theme for Jerry Reinsdorf‘s franchises over the years, but there doesn’t seem to be any drama between new Bulls president of basketball operations Arturas Karnisovas and head coach Billy Donovanwrites Joe Cowley of The Chicago Sun-Times. “I think he’s doing a great job,” Karnisovas said of Donovan. “I’ve watched all the media availabilities by him… And I think the one question that’s always coming up is, ‘When do they meet? When do they talk?’ We talk every day. We talk before every practice, we spend time during practices, talk after practices, before games, after games, so the communication is always there. I expected that, and more so, there’s no misunderstandings from my side or his side.” 

Central Notes: Sexton, Karnisovas, Holiday, Doumbouya

Amidst a four-game win streak, Cavaliers guard Collin Sexton has been out-dueling a series of recent All-Star guards in Trae Young, Ben Simmons, John Wall and Victor Oladipo, writes Chris Fedor of Cleveland.com. Sexton, frequently called the “cultural backbone” for the club by members of its front office, is averaging 29.7 PPG during the run.

The Cavaliers have a game in progress tonight against the Pacers, a club that boasts another high-level guard in Malcolm Brogdon, though he has yet to make an All-Star team. With a 14-21 record, Cleveland is currently two games behind the 10-seeded Bulls and the 9-seeded Pacers for a play-in slot in the East. Should the Cavaliers make the cut, Sexton will surely be leading the way.

There’s more out of the Central Division:

  • K.C. Johnson of NBC Sports Chicago analyzes recent comments from tight-lipped new Bulls team president Arturas Karnišovas. Johnson discusses the growing mutual respect between Karnišovas and his new coaching hire, Billy Donovan, and how Karnišovas’s comments would seem to indicate his belief in Zach LaVine and Lauri Markkanen as long-term building blocks.
  • The big new addition to the Bucks roster this offseason, new starting point guard Jrue Holiday, has had a major positive impact on the club, writes Michael Pina of Sports Illustrated. Pina examines how Holiday’s two-way impact could be the key to getting Milwaukee to its first NBA Finals with All-Star Giannis Antetokounmpo. When Holiday is available, the Bucks rank in the top-four on both sides of the ball.
  • Promising Pistons power forward Sekou Doumbouya is grappling with second-year growing pains according to Rod Beard of the Detroit News. “To his bad luck, he’s been playing behind Blake [Griffin] and Jerami [Grant],” head coach Dwayne Casey said of Doumbouya’s limited action thus far. “We need to get him some more minutes some kind of way, but he’s got to be ready to get out once he steps in there condition-wise, physically and I love his approach, attitude and seriousness about the game.”

Coaching Rumors: Donovan, Billups, Bjorkgren, Walton

Bulls executive VP of basketball operations Arturas Karnisovas made a personal connection with Billy Donovan that helped him land his new coach, ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski said this morning on “Keyshawn, JWill & Zubin” (video link). After Donovan left the Thunder two weeks ago, Karnisovas wanted to set up a meeting right away, according to Woj. The Bulls executive flew to Donovan’s Florida home a few days later and was able to sell him on the job.

Wojnarowski notes that Chicago has a recent history of taking chances on college coaches and veteran assistants, but has rarely hired someone with previous NBA head coaching experience. He adds that the Bulls have the talent to compete for a playoff spot in the East and Donovan could turn them into a desirable market for free agents.

Donovan said he didn’t want to be part of a rebuilding job in OKC, but Wojnarowski believes that will be less of a concern in Chicago. He said the Thunder are “cycling down” with a lot of veteran players and draft picks and may bottom out for a while before becoming good again. The Bulls have “players on the uptick” and could become contenders with the right coach.

There’s more on the NBA’s coaching carousel:

  • Wojnarowski passed along a few other rumors today (video link). The Sixers are ready to start bringing in coaching candidates and have already started conversations with Mike D’Antoni and Tyronn Lue. Chauncey Billups is a name to watch for the Pacers, who have shown a willingness to hire former players with no coaching experience and surround them with a veteran staff. The Pelicans have been doing a “ton of background” and haven’t started formal interviews yet. The Rockets like interviewing a lot of people whenever they have an opening and will consider various combinations of head coaches and lead assistants. Woj expects the interview process to be lengthy in both Houston and Oklahoma City.
  • Raptors head coach Nick Nurse told Sirius XM Radio that assistant Nate Bjorkgren has interviewed for the opening with the Pacers (Twitter link).
  • The Kings‘ front office shakeup shouldn’t affect the job security of coach Luke Walton, Sam Amick of The Athletic said on a recent HoopsHype podcast. Amick believes new head of basketball operations Monte McNair was told before he was hired that the organization is “pretty invested both financially and kind of spiritually in Luke.”

Central Notes: Karnisovas, Holiday, Cavs, Bulls

New Bulls executive vice president of basketball operations Arturas Karnisovas has indicated that he intends to prioritize talent over fulfilling any specific roster needs as he approaches the 2020 NBA draft, according to Joe Cowley of the Chicago Sun-Times.

“I don’t think you address needs at four,” Karnisovas said in a Zoom call after the draft lottery Thursday. “You get the best talent. That’s what we’re going to be looking for with the highest upside player.”

K.C. Johnson of NBC Sports Chicago notes that the Bulls’ biggest needs appear to be finding a true point guard (Coby White, the No. 7 pick in the 2019 draft, is more of a scoring guard), a long-term solution at the wing, and even possibly adding frontcourt depth, despite the intriguing ceilings of recent big man lottery selections Lauri Markkanen and Wendell Carter Jr.

There’s more out of the NBA’s Central Division:

  • Free agent Pacers wing Justin Holiday has hired a new agent, Bernie Lee, per Chris Haynes of Yahoo Sports (Twitter link). Lee also represents Heat swingman (and Holiday’s former Bulls teammate) Jimmy Butler. Holiday signed a one-year, $4.8MM contract with Indiana last summer.
  • Bulls president Arturas Karnisovas has indicated that September’s forthcoming group workouts for the eight teams (including Chicago) that missed the Orlando 2019/20 season restart will not expedite the team’s search for a new coach, K.C. Johnson of NBC Sports Chicago tweets. The team fired coach Jim Boylen last week after one-and-a-half lackluster seasons at the helm. Sam Smith of Bulls.com notes that Nuggets assistant coach Wes Unseld Jr. and Sixers assistant coach Ime Udoka appear to number among the top candidates for the position.
  • Though the Cavaliers may miss out on top prospects LaMelo Ball, Anthony Edwards and James Wiseman with the No. 5 pick in the 2020 draft, team general manager Koby Altman thinks the team will have plenty of intriguing options left, per Kelsey Russo of The Athletic. “We are confident that this draft position will allow us to acquire talent that will complement our core mix of young players and established veterans,” Altman said in a statement last night. Russo takes a look at five key prospects who may still be available for Cleveland, including Dayton forward Obi Toppin, Maccabi Tel Aviv forward Deni Avdija, and Auburn wing Isaac Okoro.

Bulls Notes: Draft, Karnisovas, Offseason, Oturu

Bulls executive VP of basketball operations Arturas Karnisovas, speaking to Sam Smith of Bulls.com, confirmed that he’ll be the one making the final call on the team’s lottery pick this fall. He also suggested that – like most teams in the lottery – he’ll be prioritizing adding talent rather than focusing on fit.

“It’s a talent-driven league. Talent wins championships,” Karnisovas said. “So we’re going to be focused on adding talent. It’s going to be up to the coaches to maximize it. Just to get high-upside guys on our team. Looking at our roster I love what I see. The players we have now, a young core with vets like Thad (Young) and Otto (Porter). I think we can build on that. This group definitely can do better than what they’ve showed the last couple of years.”

Karnisovas, who previously served as the general manager in Denver, pointed to the Nuggets selecting both Nikola Jokic and Jusuf Nurkic in the 2014 draft despite already having multiple bigs on their roster as an example of why drafting for talent over need is usually the right call.

“The roster balance, you can sort that out,” he told Smith. “You go after talent in that position.”

Here’s more on the Bulls:

  • Responding to a question from Smith about the Bulls’ greatest need, Karnisovas noted that he and new GM Marc Eversley view “developing on our players” as a prime concern. “Some of the players took a step back last year, which we are trying to address,” Karnisovas said. “When Marc and I came in, we came in with the No. 1 priority of player care and player development.”
  • Karnisovas also indicated to Smith that the Bulls will have the mid-level and bi-annual exceptions available this offseason, confirming that he expects the team to operate over the cap, but under the tax. That’s not a surprise, based on Chicago’s commitments for 2020/21.
  • Darnell Mayberry of The Athletic spoke to a number of scouts to get their opinions on some of the head coaching candidates who have been linked to the Bulls since Jim Boylen‘s ouster.
  • Minnesota center Daniel Oturu interviewed on Wednesday with the Bulls and expects to meet with several more teams in the coming weeks, tweets Darren Wolfson of 5 Eyewitness News. Oturu is the No. 36 prospect on ESPN’s big board, so there’s a chance he could still be available when Chicago picks at No. 44.

Central Notes: T. Young, Bledsoe, Karnisovas, Boylen

While there has been quite a bit of speculation that high-scoring Zach LaVine could wind up on the trading block, the Chicago player considered most readily available is actually veteran forward Thaddeus Young, K.C. Johnson of NBC Sports Chicago reports.

Young averaged 10.3 PPG and 4.9 RPG in 24.9 MPG in his first year with the Bulls, all career lows aside from his rookie season, and he was unhappy with his role. Young is guaranteed $13.545MM next season, but the final year of his contract in 2021/22 is only partially guaranteed.

We have more from the Central Division:

  • Bucks guard Eric Bledsoe returned to practice Thursday. However, while coach Mike Budenholzer said Bledsoe “looked great,” he didn’t play in today’s scrimmage against the Kings. Bledsoe tested positive for the coronavirus prior to the team’s arrival in Orlando and flew to the campus on Wednesday.
  • New Bulls executive vice president of basketball operations Arturas Karnisovas hasn’t pushed ownership for a coaching change and that seems like a wise move, Johnson opines. Jim Boylen seems open to tweaking his offensive system and management has sought his input on player development strategies, Johnson continues. Karnisovas has a good working relationship with Boylen’s staff, Johnson adds.
  • The Athletic’s John Hollinger takes an opposing viewpoint. He sees the lack of progress in the Bulls’ head coaching search as a head-scratcher, believing that Boylen isn’t Karnisovas’ first choice. It’s possible that Chicago’s owners simply doesn’t want to pay off Boylen and then dole out more money for a new head coach, or that the delayed start of next season has made them procrastinate. But the franchise is isn’t giving the next coach a chance to hit the ground running this winter, Hollinger adds.

Central Notes: Bledsoe, Cavs, Boylen, Bulls

Like most other NBA head coaches who have been asked about players not yet in attendance at the league’s Orlando campus, Bucks head coach Mike Budenholzer was somewhat cagey on Sunday when asked about Eric Bledsoe‘s situation. However, as Matt Velazquez of The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel writes, Budenholzer sounded optimistic about his point guard, who recently tested positive for COVID-19.

“The NBA has protocols that I think are trying to keep us all in our best place, our safest, to have a positive experience,” Budenholzer said. “When he clears those and when there’s something new to share with you guys we will, but we do feel like he’s on the closer end of the spectrum (to returning) than the longer.”

According to Velazquez, the expectation is that Bledsoe will be able to rejoin the Bucks before they resume play on July 31, though it will likely take him a little more time to get up to full speed. George Hill and NBA G League MVP Frank Mason III figure to handle point guard duties until Bledsoe is ready to go.

Here’s more from around the Central:

  • Jason Lloyd of The Athletic explores how Dan Gilbert‘s decision to take Quicken Loans public could impact the Cavaliers, noting that there’s no indication Gilbert has any intention of selling the franchise. Within the story, Lloyd adds that the Cavs owner is “turning up the pressure” on the team to show improvement next season in the third year of its rebuild.
  • Bulls head coach Jim Boylen said last week that he’s encouraged by his relationship with the team’s new top executives (link via WGNTV.com). K.C. Johnson of NBC Sports Chicago takes a closer look at Boylen’s comments, noting that the head coach dined with Arturas Karnisovas and Marc Eversley in Chicago earlier this month, and both execs have been watching the individual voluntary workouts taking place at the Advocate Center. Boylen’s status for 2020/21 remains unclear, but the longer the Bulls go without making any announcements, the more likely he seems to keep his job.
  • In a pair of articles for NBC Sports Chicago, Rob Schaefer looks at how Kris Dunn and Ryan Arcidiacono performed in 2019/20 and what sort of future the two guards might have with the Bulls. Dunn is a restricted free agent this fall, while Arcidiacono has a guaranteed salary for ’20/21 and a team option for ’21/22.