Karnisovas begins shift from Bulls fan to Bulls boss

Arturas Karnisovas could have easily spent his life as a Portland Trail Blazers fan.

Instead, he became a fan of the Bulls on June 19, 1984, the day they drafted Michael Jordan with the No. 3 overall pick. Portland took Sam Bowie with the second choice, as most people know.

Karnisovas played against Jordan twice: In the semifinals of the 1992 Barcelona Olympics, when the Dream Team edged Lithuania 127-76. Then again when the Bulls beat Olympiacos 104-78 at the 1997 McDonald's Championship, a preseason exhibition in Paris.

Karnisovas, a 6-foot-8 power forward, was the leading scorer for Olympiacos that day with 19 points. He scored 10 against the Dream Team.

"I remember every moment of that ('92) game. I had to guard Charles Barkley," Karnisovas said via teleconference Monday.

"In terms of Chicago Bulls, I've been following since my teenage years since the draft of 1984 when Michael was picked. MJ was always the guy that I followed.

"We would imitate as kids running out of the garage with Chicago (pregame introduction) music playing."

Karnisovas was officially named the Bulls' new vice president of basketball operations on Monday, but he accepted the job last week and already made his first two hires. He inherits a team that is in the midst of a sputtering rebuild, with as many liabilities as assets.

"One of my primary goals is to establish player development," he said. "We are the second-youngest team in the league, great young core, the Bulls drafted well. So players want to play but at the end of the day, they want to win. My job is going to be to facilitate that."

Karnisovas said his next order of business would be to hire a general manager and he plans to consider a long list of candidates.

"I think from the past structures what I learned is that I've got to hire the person that is going to complement; that's not going to have the same skillset that I do," he said.

Karnisovas gave no timetable for making any decisions about Jim Boylen and the coaching staff. Technically, the NBA season is a still going on, although there is no timeline yet for play to resume after the suspension.

"I'm going to do my comprehensive evaluation of every department and make sure I give the right time because as we all know we're limited right now in what we can do," he said. "For now we're going to be evaluating, communicating, and see how I can help them."

Karnisovas said he's already had conversations with everyone on the coaching staff, in the basketball operations department and a few players. He plans to speak to every player soon.

As far as replicating the improvement he saw in Denver, not many teams can play like the Nuggets. Their key acquisition during Karnisovas' years was center Nikola Jokic, a second-round pick who currently leads the team in points, rebounds and assists. There aren't any other players like him.

Most of Denver's roster was built through the draft. Among the current starters, they got Will Barton in a trade and signed Paul Millsap as a free agent.

"I already had a conversation with Jim talking about what kind of style of play I would like, what kind of players I like," Karnisovas said. "Obviously, I like high pace, moving the ball. We were able to be a very good passing team in Denver. It's a very entertaining brand of basketball.

"I like multi-positional players. I like guys with high basketball IQ that play off each other. But that takes time. Obviously, you've got a read-and-react kind of offense, which I like. So in the short term what needs to happen is we begin to establish a culture of who we are as a team. And the expectations for winning. Everybody wants to win, we just have to establish how we're going to do it and what we value."

• Twitter: @McGrawDHBulls

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