Arturas Karnisovas

Bulls Reportedly Trying To Deal For Damian Lillard

The Bulls are trying to get involved in the bidding for Trail Blazers guard Damian Lillard, Kyle Neubeck of PHLY Sports said on a podcast on Wednesday.

Neubeck hears that Chicago has been exploring the possibility of moving Zach LaVine in a multi-team deal to see if can get a combination of players and picks in return that would interest Portland. He notes that there were trade rumors circulating around LaVine earlier this summer, but the Bulls have publicly denied that he’s being made available.

Neubeck also admits that Lillard might not be happy on a team like Chicago, where his best teammates would be Nikola Vucevic and DeMar DeRozan. He adds that the Bulls may be the Eastern Conference mystery team in the Lillard race that ESPN’s Marc Spears alluded to earlier this week.

Derek Bodner confirms on the podcast that he has heard the Bulls mentioned in conversations with other reporters, but he calls it a “borderline crazy gamble.” Bodner believes there are teams that should call Lillard’s bluff about not wanting to play anywhere but Miami, such as the Sixers, who could become legitimate title contenders by pairing Lillard with Joel Embiid. However, he’s not convinced that Chicago would have that type of leverage if acquires Lillard.

Rich Hofman says the Bulls are in a desperate position, so a big swing on a Lillard-type deal might be understandable. He adds that team president Arturas Karnisovas and general manager Marc Eversley may have to start worrying soon about their job security, but he doubts Chicago could make a run at a title even with Lillard on the team.

The three writers also considered the possibility of the Sixers making an offer for LaVine, but they agreed that it’s unlikely because of his contract. He’s entering the second season of a five-year, $215MM extension, and his salary will rise from $40MM to $48.9MM over the next four years.

Bulls Notes: Luxury Tax, Rotation, Williams, Dosunmu

The Bulls will likely be close to the luxury tax threshold all season, but K.C. Johnson of NBC Sports Chicago doesn’t expect them to be willing to end the year in tax territory. Executive vice president Arturas Karnisovas said on draft night that he would lobby ownership to pay the tax for a contender, but Johnson states that it’s hard to see him getting approval for a team that finished 10th in the East last season.

Johnson estimates that the Bulls are about $2.4MM away from tax territory with two open roster spots. He expects the team to unload point guard Carlik Jones, whose non-guaranteed $1.9MM salary is roughly the same as a veteran’s minimum contract, and try to get frontcourt help instead.

Johnson adds that filling both roster openings with minimum contracts would put Chicago slightly over the tax line. He expects management to keep one spot open heading into the season and see what opportunities become available to add players. The Bulls have about half of their $12.4MM non-taxpayer mid-level exception remaining, along with a $4.5MM bi-annual exception and a $10.2MM disabled player exception that was granted for Lonzo Ball‘s injury.

There’s more from Chicago:

  • Billy Donovan‘s 10-man rotation appears set with training camp two months away, and the biggest questions seem to be who will start at point guard and power forward, Johnson adds in the same piece. If Donovan continues his emphasis on defense, Johnson expects newly acquired Torrey Craig to get the nod at power forward, with either Alex Caruso or free agent addition Jevon Carter running the point. The return of Derrick Jones Jr. or a free agent signing such as Rudy Gay could upend the current rotation, Johnson adds, possibly pushing out Andre Drummond.
  • Bulls officials want Patrick Williams to become more aggressive as he enters his fourth NBA season, according to Johnson. Williams returned from an injury to play all 82 games last season, and Johnson believes the organization should be patient with a player who won’t turn 22 until next month.
  • The Bulls may have slightly overpaid for Ayo Dosunmu, but keeping him on the roster was still a good move, contends Darnell Mayberry of The Athletic. The restricted free agent received $21MM over three years and now has to make a case for consistent playing time in a crowded backcourt.

Bulls Notes: Karnisovas, Williams, Beverley, DeRozan

The Bulls recently signed executive vice president Arturas Karnisovas to an extension without any public fanfare, a source told Darnell Mayberry of The Athletic. Although Chicago is coming off a 40-42 season and a play-in tournament exit, Mayberry points out that Karnisovas still has a strong relationship with chief operating officer Michael Reinsdorf.

Despite the extension, there’s reason to believe the organization’s faith in Karnisovas may be declining, Mayberry adds. He notes that Karnisovas has let the last three windows for improvement — the past two trade deadlines and the 2022 offseason — pass without a significant roster upgrade, leaving Chicago stuck as roughly a .500 team with no obvious way to improve.

There’s still confidence within the organization that things are headed in the right direction, according to Mayberry. Insiders cite a cultural change since the new regime took over and point out that the Bulls had a top-five defense this season. However, until those improvements result in more wins, there’s a chance that a change will be eventually made at the top.

There’s more from Chicago:

  • The success that Lauri Markkanen had in Utah should make the Bulls more reluctant to consider trading Patrick Williams this summer, Mayberry adds. He notes that Williams showed steady improvement after injuries limited him to 17 games last season and states that Chicago could use more players with Williams’ size and versatility.
  • Patrick Beverley quickly became a leader when he joined the Bulls in February, per K.C. Johnson of NBC Sports Chicago. The team went 14-9 after signing Beverley following a buyout, as he provided toughness along with a defensive presence. Johnson notes that Beverley recently said on his podcast that he wants a new contract starting at $15MM a year, but the Bulls only have his Non-Bird rights and are limited to a $3.8MM offer unless they use their mid-level exception.
  • The Bulls also face a decision on DeMar DeRozan, who will become eligible this summer for an extension worth up to $179MM over four years, Johnson states in a mailbag column. DeRozan has been an All-Star in both of his seasons with Chicago, but Johnson doesn’t believe the Bulls will rush into a decision — either by extending or trying to trade him.

Bulls Notes: Offseason, Vucevic, White, Ball, LaVine, DeRozan, Beverley

The Bulls have no plans to rebuild after a disappointing 40-42 season and an exit in the play-in tournament, vice president Arturas Karnisovas told reporters, including Jamal Collier of ESPN, at an end-of-season press conference Saturday. Karnisovas said management will use the offseason to search for ways to build on the team’s 14-9 performance after the All-Star break.

“That’s been thrown around all this season,” he said. “Blow up, rebuild. It’s not on our minds. We changed our minds in the 2021 season to focus on winning, and try to build a sustainable program here — I think that’s where we’re focused right now. How we can help this group and how we can improve from this year.”

Karnisovas indicated that the Bulls will focus on trying to re-sign as many of their free agents as possible. He mentioned starting center Nikola Vucevic, who will be unrestricted this summer, and said the team “absolutely” wants to keep reserve guard Coby White, who can be made a restricted free agent with a $7.7MM qualifying offer.

Vucevic also spoke with reporters, saying he has enjoyed his two and a half seasons in Chicago.

“The Bulls will have priority,” Vucevic said of his free agency plans. “I’d like to stay here. But that’s on the front office to decide and work with my agent.”

There’s more from Chicago:

  • Karnisovas wasn’t able to offer an update on Lonzo Ball, who underwent his third knee surgery last month, Collier adds. Karnisovas declined to comment when he was asked if the Bulls plan to seek salary relief from the league for the $43MM remaining on Ball’s contract. “I have confidence that he’s going to come back,” he said. “In terms of timeline, I don’t have that timeline right now because he just had his procedure.” The team could only be approved for salary relief if Ball’s health issues are considered likely to be career-ending.
  • Zach LaVine and DeMar DeRozan believe they can become an even better combination with a healthy start to next season, per K.C. Johnson of NBC Sports Chicago. DeRozan points out that injuries have been been disruptive throughout their two seasons together. “We haven’t even scratched the surface,” he said. “Last year, with him being hurt and me carrying so much of the load and this year him coming off his surgery, I know early on in the season he was frustrated just trying to find his rhythm. I kept being in his ear telling him, ‘It’s gonna come. You got to get your rhythm back. You haven’t played. You haven’t touched a ball.’ By the time he got healthy and got it rolling, I began to deal with my quad. So we haven’t been fully ourself and that’s the scary part about it.”
  • Chicago has a decision to make on Patrick Beverley, who took over as the starting point guard after signing in February. Yossi Gozlan of HoopsHype points out that the Bulls can offer Beverley a $3.2MM veteran’s minimum salary or $3.8MM with his Non-Bird rights. They would have to use part of their mid-level exception to exceed that figure, but Gozlan states that they may want to save the MLE to add another big man off the bench.

Bulls Notes: Vucevic, LaVine, Offseason Approach, Inactivity

Bulls executive vice president Artūras Karnišovas believes the team will be able to reach a contract agreement with center Nikola Vucevic, K.C. Johnson of NBC Sports Chicago writes. Vucevic is headed to unrestricted free agency this summer unless he signs an extension.

“He’s having an unbelievable year,” Karnišovas said. “And you know we want him to be here.”

Vucevic said he’s willing to sign an extension but doesn’t feel the need to get something done before the season ends.

“If they want to talk extension, obviously we’re open to it,” he said. “But if they want to wait until summer, that’s fine too. We’ll see. Obviously, I’d be interested in re-signing here if we can work everything out.”

We have more on the Bulls:

  • Zach LaVine said he wasn’t fazed by a report that the Bulls and Knicks had discussions about him prior to the trade deadline, according to Johnson. “Those speculations don’t come out with winning teams,” LaVine said. “Didn’t happen last year, so I think being one of the leaders of the team and understanding your positioning and the position of the team, your name is going to get thrown in stuff like that.” Johnson downplayed the Chicago Sun-Times report, with his sources suggesting that those talks either never occurred or that they happened weeks earlier.
  • The Sun-Times’ Joe Cowley stuck by his LaVine story and said the two sides couldn’t reach an agreement on which players to include in the deal, even with the Bulls also getting back draft capital. A source told Cowley the Bulls aren’t as committed to LaVine long-term as some may think, and they could test the trade market for him once again this summer.
  • While the Bulls — expected to be very active before the trade deadline passed — wound up doing nothing, that won’t be the case this offseason, Johnson adds in a separate story. The franchise won’t go into a full rebuild, but the rest of the season will determine Karnisovas’ approach this summer. The Bulls have to give the Magic this year’s first-round selection unless it’s in the top four and they also have key contract decisions to make on Coby White, Ayo Dosunmu and Javonte Green, as well as Vucevic.
  • The Athletic’s Jon Greenberg heavily criticized the front office for its inactivity, labeling it a debacle and shameful that changes were not made to a roster that has failed to show signs of taking a big step forward.

Bulls Notes: DeRozan, Vucevic, Ball, Karnisovas

Bulls All-Star forward DeMar DeRozan intends to return to action from a right quad strain on Thursday, reports K.C. Johnson of NBC Sports Chicago.

Chicago has gone 1-2 without the 6’6″ swingman, the team’s leading scorer and best player.

“You get a different perspective when you are sitting back and watching from afar,” DeRozan said of his absence. “We were just having too many lapses here and there, whether defensively or offensively, that put us in a hole and made it so tough for us to get back in a lot of games. And we’re still right there.”

If by “right there” he means barely in the play-in tournament bracket, then he’s right. At 20-24, the Bulls currently occupy the tenth seed in the East, though they are tied with the No. 11 Raptors.

There’s more out of the Windy City:

  • Bulls center Nikola Vucevic, a trade candidate given he’s on an expiring deal, tied his career high with 43 points in a 132-118 home win over the Warriors Sunday, writes Alex Shapiro of NBC Sports Chicago. Vucevic also contributed 13 points, four assists and four steals in a well-rounded effort. “He’s so dynamic because he can shoot the three, play the pocket, he can make the floater, the hook shot,” second-year guard Ayo Dosunmu raved. “He’s got all of that in his bag. He’s also unselfish, so sometimes he gets in the pick and roll, if he doesn’t have it he hits the weakside person.”
  • Starting Bulls point guard Lonzo Ball, who has missed just over a full calendar year following complications from two knee surgeries, conceded that he may not return to the floor for Chicago this season, per K.C. Johnson of NBC Sports Chicago. “I mean, naturally, yeah, everything is on a time schedule,” Ball said when asked if missing the entire season is a possibility. “I would love to play. I would never count that out. It’s a long year, I feel like we’re hitting our stride right now. So hopefully I can keep getting better, the team will keep getting better and we can meet up.” 
  • Chicago team president Arturas Karnisovas addressed fans during a recent appearance on NBC Sports Chicago’s Bulls Talk podcast. “I enjoy the fan base and how much they love the team and how involved they are,” Karnišovas said (h/t to K.C. Johnson of NBC Sports for the transcription). “It’s not fun when we lose. I’m a very competitive person. That’s what you need to know. I don’t take losses lightly. I get emotional just like you. We’re trying to turn this around.”

Bulls Notes: Lineup, Williams, Dosunmu, Donovan

The Bulls made a change to their starting lineup on Friday against Golden State, replacing Ayo Dosunmu and Patrick Williams with Alex Caruso and Javonte Green.

The new-look starting lineup didn’t exactly set the world on fire – the five-man group was outscored by seven points in just over 10 minutes of action – but head coach Billy Donovan said he liked what he saw and doesn’t expect it will just be a one-game tweak, per Joe Cowley of The Chicago Sun-Times. He added that it wasn’t a defensive-minded move to try to slow down the high-powered Warriors.

“It was more to see, ‘Let’s see what this looks like,'” Donovan said, according to K.C. Johnson of NBC Sports Chicago. “I’m always evaluating and you’re not trying to make a decision after two or three games. But I think there’s a pretty decent body of work for the number of games we played. And I just wanted to take a look at something different.”

Dosunmu and Williams remained in the rotation, logging 21 and 19 minutes respectively, and Donovan said he appreciated how they handled the new roles.

“I understand there’s always a level of prestige with starting. I get all that. But I also think those guys see a bigger picture,” Donovan said. “It’s not like I said to them, ‘Hey listen, I’m moving you out of the starting lineup and you’re out of the rotation.’ I was really pleased with the way both responded. They’re team guys. They want to win. I’m sure in their heart of hearts want to start. But I also think the team is more important to them.”

Here’s more on the Bulls:

  • Donovan is hoping that the move to the second unit will encourage Williams, a former No. 4 overall pick, to avoid getting passive on offense. “The one thing we’ve been trying to do is to try to get him to be more aggressive,” Donovan said, per Johnson. “I think being out there with three terrific offensive players in Zach (LaVine) and Vooch (Nikola Vucevic) and DeMar (DeRozan), sometimes there aren’t as many opportunities. I told him in doing this I wanted him to be more aggressive offensively, that he was going to need to be somebody who could give that group a little bit of a pop. I look at it that this may actually help his development.”
  • Although the Bulls were pleased that Dosunmu and Williams accepted the lineup change without complaint, LaVine suggested that his teammates should view their demotions as a challenge. “I don’t think they should be happy or satisfied with it at all,” LaVine said, according to Johnson.
  • Writing for The Sun-Times, Cowley questions why Bulls owner Jerry Reinsdorf kept a lid on the contract extension that Donovan signed with the team before the season began, arguing that it’s a disservice to fans to try to keep that sort of move under wraps.
  • Donovan’s extension is a reflection of how the connection between him and president of basketball operations Arturas Karnisovas has grown in recent years, according to Johnson, who notes that the two men speak almost daily and says there’s “never any misunderstanding in their shared, direct conversation.”

Bulls Notes: LaVine, Roster Decisions, Offseason

Speaking today to reporters, including K.C. Johnson of NBC Sports Chicago (Twitter links), Bulls president of basketball operations Arturas Karnisovas said his hope is to have Zach LaVine in Chicago going forward and that he’s confident the two sides can work out a new deal, given their strong relationship. LaVine will be an unrestricted free agent this summer.

Addressing LaVine’s left knee injury, which was a nagging issue for much of the 2021/22 season, Karnisovas suggested it’s unlikely to be a major factor in free agency negotiations and that a final determination hasn’t been made on whether the All-Star guard will require surgery. As Johnson notes, an MRI on the knee showed nothing structurally wrong that would create long-term concern, but surgery still appears likely.

In his own session with the media, LaVine confirmed that he’s going to meet with his doctor in Los Angeles to determine the best plan of action for his knee (Twitter link via Johnson). He also stated that free agency is a “big decision” for him and his family and that he intends to take his time to consider all his options (Twitter link via Johnson).

While LaVine said he’ll leave it to his agent and the Bulls’ front office to try to work out a deal, he admitted that being a maximum-salary player is important to him, tweets Rob Schaefer of NBC Sports Chicago: I see myself as a top guy in this league and I think I’ve proven that over the last four years.”

Here’s more on the Bulls:

  • Besides retaining LaVine, Karnisovas likes the idea of keeping the Bulls’ roster mostly intact and making minor changes around the edges, tweets Schaefer. Hopefully we can keep the core together and work around the margins,” Karnisovas said.
  • Lonzo Ball is on board with Karnisovas’ plan to maintain the current core, writes Sam Smith of “I would love to run it back,” Ball said. “I was unhealthy this year. (Alex) Caruso went down. Pat(rick Williams) was pretty much out all the way until the playoffs. Everyone knows Zach was playing hurt pretty much this whole year. If everybody can get healthy and come back, I don’t see why we couldn’t run it back.” DeMar DeRozan added that he has “the utmost trust and faith in the front office to do the job,” Smith writes.
  • In his Bulls offseason preview, Yossi Gozlan of HoopsHype examines LaVine’s free agency, a possible extension for Nikola Vucevic, and more.

Bulls Notes: Thompson, Williams, Standing Pat, Luxury Tax

Tristan Thompson is currently a Pacer, but the Bulls would be interested in his services if he’s bought out by Indiana, Joe Cowley of the Chicago Sun-Times tweets. Thompson was thrown into the Domantas SabonisTyrese Haliburton blockbuster between Indiana and Sacramento for salary-matching purposes. The two parties are reportedly mulling a buyout of his $9.7MM expiring contract. Chicago didn’t add to its frontcourt prior to the trade deadline.

We have more on the Bulls:

  • According to the team’s top executive, Arturas Karnisovas, Patrick Williams will return from his injury this season, K.C. Johnson of NBC Sports Chicago tweets. Mid-March is the soft target date for Williams’ comeback. Williams has been sidelined since late October after undergoing surgery to repair torn ligaments in his left wrist. At the time, the Bulls gave a recovery timeline of four-to-six months.
  • Williams’ expected return, as well the hope that Lonzo Ball and Alex Caruso will eventually rejoin the rotation after recovering from their injuries, were factors in the Bulls’ decision to stand pat on deadline day, Rob Schaefer of NBC Sports Chicago tweets“We were taking calls, but the mutual feeling with all of our group was: ‘Let’s get out guys back,” Karnisovas said. “We’re going to have enough time in the regular season to see what this group can do healthy.’”
  • Karnisovas was somewhat evasive when asked if he had the green light to go beyond the luxury tax threshold in future seasons, Schaefer adds in another tweet. While noting the front office has been “pretty aggressive” in its acquisitions over the last nine months, Karnisovas said, “When the opportunity will present itself, I think we’re going to evaluate that. That’s it.”

Central Notes: Bulls, Karnisovas, Cavaliers, Harris, Caruso

The Bulls have been dealing with several injuries at power forward this season, Joe Cowley of the Chicago Sun-Times writes. In addition to starting forward Patrick Williams, Derrick Jones Jr., Javonte Green and Alex Caruso are all sidelined due to injuries or health and safety protocols.

Chicago has a starting core of Lonzo BallZach LaVineDeMar DeRozan and Nikola Vucevic. At power forward, Williams started all five of his games, but the 20-year-old suffered a dislocated wrist in November and is expected to miss most or all of the season.

Jones is likely to miss two-to-four weeks due to a bone bruise in his knee, Green is sidelined with an adductor injury, and Caruso is still in protocols. As for Williams, the Bulls have simply been working on getting his conditioning up this month.

‘‘We’re trying to get him just a conditioning piece; he can do some of that,’’ head coach Billy Donovan said. ‘‘He still has to be very, very careful with the [wrist] in terms of being around a lot of people. There is some form shooting they are allowing him to do. Just trying to get his movements back and trying to get him working on defense, cutting.

‘‘That’s kind of the focus for him right now. He’s been cleared to do a lot of the cardiovascular stuff.’’

There’s more from the Central Division tonight:

  • Bulls executive VP Arturas Karnisovas received praise from president and COO Michael Reinsdorf for helping make the team relevant again, Adrian Wojnarowski of writes. “When we hired Arturas, I was confident that he would help turn things around, but I can’t say I thought it would be this quickly,” Reinsdorf said. “There are no issues. There’s no drama. Just everyone wanting to get to the next level. It’s a good feeling.”
  • The Cavaliers would be interested in acquiring Nets sharpshooter Joe Harris ahead of the February 10 trade deadline, according to Chris Fedor of (hat tip to HoopsHype). Harris played 14 games this season due to ankle surgery, but the 30-year-old averaged 14.1 points on 48% shooting from deep last season.
  • Bulls guard Alex Caruso could return on Wednesday against the Cavaliers, ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski reports (via Twitter). As noted previously, Caruso is currently in the NBA’s health and safety protocols. He was also dealing with a foot sprain this month.