Arturas Karnisovas

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.

Bulls Notes: Boylen, Mini-Camp, Draft, Deng

Bulls executive VP of basketball operations Arturas Karnisovas is keeping his promise to evaluate head coach Jim Boylen and his staff before making a decision on their future, writes K.C. Johnson of NBC Sports Chicago. The Bulls have plenty of down time for Karnisovas to interact with Boylen and the other coaches. The team isn’t part of the restart in Orlando and is awaiting word on a possible mini-camp with the other seven non-invited teams.

Karnisovas and new general manager Marc Eversley have been encouraging the staff to focus solely on coaching-related matters and avoid other distractions that arise, Johnson adds. They want management to be in charge of any other issues that involve the team.

Since joining the Bulls, Karnisovas has met frequently with Boylen to watch film, get his opinions on player development and discuss the draft and free agency. Although Boylen remains unpopular with Chicago’s fan base, Karnisovas has pledged not to let public opinion sway his decision.

There’s more from Chicago:

  • The Bulls would probably be well represented at a gathering of the eight teams not in Orlando, though all players may not participate, Johnson adds in the same piece. One of the most intriguing decisions would involve Lauri Markkanen, who will be eligible for a rookie scale extension this offseason and may not want to risk an injury with nothing at stake.
  • Point guard may again be a position of need as the new Bulls management team prepares for the draft, writes Joe Cowley of The Chicago Sun-Times. Kris Dunn hasn’t developed into the play-maker the front office expected, and Coby White, last year’s top pick, seems better suited to play shooting guard. Cowley sees LaMelo Ball, Killian HayesTyrese Haliburton and Cole Anthony as the best point guards available.
  • In an interview with Carol Tshabalala, Luol Deng blames former GM Gar Forman for destroying the Bulls’ chances at winning a title. “The guy who traded me obviously ruined the team,” Deng said. “I don’t mind saying that now. I would never speak about him as a person, just the decisions he made.” Tom Thibodeau was irate that the front office opted to trade Deng rather than give him a contract extension, Deng adds.

Bulls Notes: Karnisovas, Boylen, Markkanen, LaVine

Even though rumors are heating up about possible replacements for Bulls coach Jim Boylen, new executive vice president of basketball operations Arturas Karnisovas indicated that the decision won’t be a quick one, writes K.C. Johnson of NBC Sports Chicago. As we relayed this morning, one report this week indicated that Sixers assistant Ime Udoka is the front-runner to replace Boylen, but Karnisovas said today on a conference call with reporters that many elements will play into the decision.

“Coaching in the league is very difficult. To make a decision about coaching is really hard. It’s probably the hardest thing for executives,” he said. “So I look at a lot of aspects. I’ve had numerous conversations. That said, I’d like to be in a building, to be in practices, to be around the coaching staff in meetings. We’re looking forward to getting in the video room together, analyze the games, to watch games together. Talking to players and coaches, obviously everyone is disappointed with the results last year. They (the Bulls) definitely underperformed. Watching games, I’m excited to watch because there’s a lot of talent on this team. In order for me to keep players and coaches accountable, I have to have personal relationships with them. That’s what I need to cultivate. That’s my objective this offseason.”

There’s more from Chicago:

  • Karnisovas said no more front office changes are planned, which means associate general manager Brian Hagen, assistant general manager Steve Weinman and director of pro personnel Jim Paxson will all be retained, Johnson adds in the same piece.
  • Karnisovas had frequent discussions with Lauri Markkanen during the hiatus and believes the third-year forward can turn things around after a disappointing season, Johnson notes in a separate story. Although Karnisovas didn’t address the topic in the conference call, Markkanen will be eligible for an extension when the offseason begins. “He’s eager to get back to the gym and improve,” Karnisovas said. “He was disappointed by the overall result (last season). Every player wants to win. He’s about winning, as well. Our objective is to get the best version of Lauri next year.”
  • Zach LaVine is disappointed that the Bulls weren’t able to qualify for the resumption of the season in Orlando, writes Eric Woodyward of ESPN. Chicago posted a 22-43 record before the shutdown — 11th in the East and eight games out of a playoff spot — which LaVine sees as an indication that bold steps must be taken to improve. “We weren’t even good enough to get to the play-in game,” he said, “so it’s upsetting and it just shows that we’ve got to do a lot of things differently to get ourselves that recognition to get to that spot.”

Central Notes: Bulls, Cavs, Prince, Pistons

Now that the Bulls have been officially excluded from the NBA’s 22-team resumption, the team will naturally turn their attention to an exciting offseason, per KC Johnson of NBC Sports Chicago. This will mark Chicago’s first offseason with Arturas Karnisovas and Marc Eversley at the helm of the team’s front office. Karnisovas and Bulls president and COO Michael Reinsdorf both released official statements expressing disappointment at not getting to partake in the conclusion of the season from a player development perspective.

The status of head coach Jim Boylen, despite support from ownership and former president of operations John Paxson, remains the biggest question mark. Boylen owns a 39-84 record as head coach. Otto Porter Jr., the team’s injury-prone highest-paid player, is expected to opt in to the final season of his four-year, $106.5MM contract.

There’s more out of the Central Division:

  • The Cavaliers voiced their frustration about not being invited to the league’s 22-team Orlando restart this summer, per Chris Fedor of Cleveland.com. The team finishes with the East’s worst record, 19-46. “This is a killer for us and our development,” a Cleveland organization member relayed to Fedor.
  • The Pistons are still potentially considering 2004 championship small forward Tayshaun Prince for a front office position with the club, according to Omari Sanofka II of the Detroit Free Press (Twitter link). Sanofka notes that Detroit is currently on the hunt for an experienced general manager and an up-and-coming assistant, a position for which Prince, currently in the Grizzlies front office as VP of basketball affairs, is considered a prime candidate.
  • Progress is being made in the Pistons’ search for a new GM, according to Rod Beard of The Detroit NewsMalik Rose and Pat Garrity had been the team’s top two assistant general managers, reporting directly to de facto head of basketball operations Ed Stefanski. Rose is leaving the organization and Garrity will not be in the running for the GM job. Others being considered are Thunder assistant GM Troy Weaver, Nets assistant GM Jeff Peterson, Clippers assistant GM Mark Hughes, former Hawks general manager Wes Wilcox, and former Suns general manager Ryan McDonough.

Bulls To Reopen Practice Facility On June 3

MAY 29: The Bulls won’t reopen their facility today, but have received the go-ahead to open their doors for individual workouts beginning next Wednesday, June 3, tweets K.C. Johnson. That’s the date that the city’s “phase three” plan begins for reopening following coronavirus closures.

According to Johnson (Twitter link), new Bulls execs Arturas Karnisovas and Marc Eversley, who have been working remotely since being hired, are scheduled to be in Chicago soon.

MAY 27: The Mavericks will reopen their practice facility on Thursday, becoming the 23rd team to do so, and the Bulls appears likely to follow suit on Friday, becoming the 24th, as K.C. Johnson of NBC Sports Chicago reports (Twitter link).

The franchise received clearance from the Governor’s office and is in discussions with the city on how to safely open the facility. Under league rules, the workouts are voluntary. Only four players at a time are permitted in the facility and no group activities such as practices or scrimmages are allowed.

Johnson adds that not many of the Bulls’ players are currently in Chicago. There’s also no guarantee that the Bulls will be included in the NBA’s return. The league is contemplating many scenarios and there’s some skepticism from teams that all franchises won’t be included.

The Celtics, Knicks, Pistons, Warriors, Spurs, and Wizards are the only remaining franchises with closed facilities.

Bulls Notes: Boylen, Loenser, Tanaka, Draft

Although the Bulls‘ ownership group and former executive VP of basketball operations John Paxson have voiced their support for head coach Jim Boylen, they’ve also made it clear to the newly-hired executives in the front office that they’ll allow Boylen’s dismissal if Arturas Karnisovas and Marc Eversley want to go in that direction, writes Joe Cowley of The Chicago Sun-Times.

Cowley, who wrote earlier this month that Karnisovas and Eversley are likely leaning toward making a coaching change, notes that the Bulls will have a clearer sense of a timeline for that decision once the NBA makes an announcement on the fate of the 2019/20 season. If the team doesn’t resume play, the front office could be in position to make a call on Boylen sooner rather than later.

Here’s more on the Bulls:

  • While Boylen’s fate remains up in the air, the Bulls have exercised their 2020/21 option on assistant coach Nate Loenser, reports K.C. Johnson of NBC Sports Chicago. As Johnson explains, Loenser – whose contract is the only one that required an immediate decision – is well-respected by players and has established a strong reputation for player development.
  • The Bulls aren’t retaining longtime trainer Jeff Tanaka, writes Joe Cowley of The Chicago Sun-Times. Tanaka has been the club’s head trainer since 2014 and was an assistant trainer before that, dating back to 2008. With his contract up, Arturas Karnisovas and the new-look front office decided to go in another direction and intend to bring in someone of their own choosing, per Cowley.
  • The Bulls should be well-prepared for the 2020 draft, according to Cowley, who points out that newly-hired executives Karnisovas, Marc Eversley, Pat Connelly, and J.J. Polk will bring with them intel from three separate franchises. Throw in the research the Bulls’ existing scouts have done and there should be no shortage of information on this year’s prospects as the team sets its draft board.