Bulls

Karnisovas Tasked With Dragging Bulls Fans Out of the 90s

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Yeah, we get it, Michael Jordan is the greatest ever.

Being born in 1998, I always just believed that Michael Jordan was the greatest basketball player to ever grace the hardwood. I accepted that Phil Jackson was the best coach ever, that the 1995-1996 team was unbeatable and that LeBron James would never approach the greatness MJ and the Chicago Bulls of the 1990s placed on the game.

I heard all about it, I believed every word. But I never saw it.

Much like the younger part of Bulls Nation, Derrick Rose and Joakim Noah were my heroes on the court, not Jordan. Everyone knows what happened to those early 2010s Bulls teams, where all of their postseason journeys ended in a bitter way, usually LeBron-shaped.

Everything else around two eras, however, has been mediocrity at best, and at worst a complete embarrassment if you dare call yourself a Bulls fan.

This spring, the legendary franchise made moves to attempt to be relevant again.

The Chicago Bulls got themselves a shiny new pair of executives in April. They hired vice president of basketball operations Arturas Karnisovas and general manager Marc Eversley, both of whom have team-building experience.

The Bulls also hired an established coach in Billy Donovan. Donovan comes into Chicago with a welcomed “defense first” mentality. After four decades, this was finally the significant change from the Reinsdorfs fans wanted. For the first time in 40 years, the decisions will be made by someone who isn’t named Krause or Paxson.

Now the real work begins.

Karnisovas continues to work in silence.

Bulls Twitter has an unsurprising divide when it comes to the new front office guys. People started jumping ship when AK and Eversley didn’t fire Jim Boylen immediately. Instead, they went by the book and waited until the official end of the regular season to begin their coaching overhaul.

An underwhelming draft and free agency period followed that dismissal. The 2020 NBA Draft was short on talent coming in, and AK surprised many when he took Florida State’s Patrick Williams with the fourth overall pick.

Arturas then took and stashed a European player in the second round. He then got a productive but unflashy point guard in Devon Dotson as an undrafted rookie.

In free agency, the biggest headline signing was veteran guard/forward Garrett Temple coming over from Brooklyn.

After Temple, the Bulls brought back Noah Vonleh as a training-camp signee. Vonleh’s signing also signified a possible trade of forward Thaddeus Young, who had voiced his displeasures with Chicago pretty early into his tenure.

Beyond a G-League guy from the Lakers, nothing happened in terms of player movement in Chicago. There wasn’t much cap flexibility to work with, save for a few cap exceptions.

While trades could happen at any time between now and the deadline, the Bulls look to be running it back at nearly the same capacity as last year. Bulls fans are still upset, but Chicago needs to figure out what it is as a basketball franchise before Karnisovas starts the wheeling and dealing of contracts.

If AK is to be “successful”, he needs a championship in his Bulls tenure.

There are big questions to be answered this season: is Zach LaVine the best scoring option going forward? Does Lauri Markkanen deserve a contract extension? Who needs to stay and who needs to be traded or cut?

Unfortunately, these questions cannot be answered as soon as Bulls fans would like. This rendition of the guys in red hasn’t shown what they are other than injury-prone.

As a fanbase, we still have no idea who Coby White is (though management sees him as an off-ball scorer according to insider K.C. Johnson). There is a belief that a White-LaVine pairing could produce fireworks in the backcourt, but White only started one game last year and that game did not include LaVine.

While Karnisovas cannot force the Bulls into the playoffs, AK needs to see that he is behind the ball already.

The biggest issue facing the current Bull front office is the history of Bulls basketball, namely His Airness. Because he was not only drafted by the Bulls, but staying with the team almost his entire career, fans are always looking to find Jordan’s successor. Rose was there for a bit but obviously, his tenure ended on a very sour note. Not to mention, no championship.

As it stands right now, fans are divided on LaVine as “the guy”. Some think there is still more to his game than a 25-4-4 stat line, some think he is an empty-calorie scorer on a terrible team with defensive concerns.

(As for defense, please check out this tweet from 670 The Score producer and Locked on Bulls host Jordan Maly🙂

It’s been more than 20 years since the last Bulls championship. Karnisovas needs put the Bulls back on the mountaintop as soon as possible.

The issue is that AK’s strategy doesn’t coalign with what the Bulls saw success with before.

Has anyone ever noticed that there isn’t a dominant ball-handler in Denver? The Nuggets squad Karnisovas built has several stars, headlined by guard Jamal Murray and passing wizard Nikola Jokic. However, they both post usage percentages under 30 percent.

Comparing that to LaVine’s 31.7 percent last season, it’s clear that AK emphasizes shot distribution. It will not be traditional in Chicago, but things need to change. Waiting for the next heavy-usage star to just drop into the United Center is not going to happen. Karnisovas will help drag Bulls fandom into the modern NBA.

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About Mike Guistolise

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