Karnisovas believes Bulls have more talent than record showed

Bulls vice president of basketball operations Arturas Karnisovas said Saturday he takes pride in being deliberate and thoughtful in his decision-making,

Less than two months into his tenure, and before even setting foot in Chicago as the Bulls' new boss, he has reached an overall conclusion.

"This group is too talented not to perform better," Karnisovas said on a conference call. "The youth, the injuries, all that stuff is not going to be an excuse moving forward."

That sounds like an indictment of head coach Jim Boylen, who guided the Bulls to a 22-43 record. But there were obviously other factors, primarily the lack of helpful veterans. The Bulls were counting on a big year from Otto Porter and didn't get it, in part because he missed 51 games with a foot injury.

Karnisovas offered no timeline for making a decision on the coaching staff. He said he is on his way to Chicago, but declined to give a specific arrival date.

He and Boylen have yet to meet in person since Karnisovas was hired away from the Denver Nuggets. The Lithuania native stayed in Colorado due to stay-at-home orders across the country. General manager Marc Eversley, who the Bulls hired from the Philadelphia 76ers, is also expected to arrive in town soon.

"I really take pride in my relationships that I cultivate with coaching staffs and my basketball operations staffs," Karnisovas said. "I haven't seen them. I think after we found out that we were left out of the bubble in Orlando, we'll have all the time in the world to (get to know everyone). So I'm looking forward to that."

There have been plenty of conversations and Zoom calls between Karnisovas, Boylen and just about everyone in the organization. But nothing yet face-to-face.

"It's hard with Jim, its hard with all coaching staff, and the players," Karnisovas said. "As much as we talk on the phone, they don't know me. So that is my No. 1 priority when I get in the city, when I get in the building, is to get to know our coaching staff, meet the players and start the process of getting to know each other."

One player who stayed in Chicago and figures to get one of the first face-to-face meetings is Lauri Markkanen. He's coming off a disappointing third season, averaging 14.7 points and 6.3 rebounds, compared to 18.7 and 9.0 during his sophomore campaign.

During a recent podcast interview in Finnish, Markkanen complained about his low number of touches. According to, Markkanen's touches per game went from 66.2 in 2018-19 to 45.3 this season.

"Our objective is to get the best version of Lauri next year," Karnisovas said. "He's eager to get back to the gym and improve. Each player, from talking to them, they were disappointed with last year's result. We're going to strive to get better. Same thing with Lauri. We have a lot of time this offseason. We're going to put a plan together for him."

The NBA's tentative plan is to begin the 2020-21 season in December, so the Bulls will have an eight-month offseason. Karnisovas said there have been discussions about what the eight teams left out of the resumption will be allowed to do to stay sharp during the long layoff.

"I think a combination of some team-oriented activities from some practices and possibly scrimmages (would be ideal)," he said. "There's going to be a lot of player development and individual work, but I also would like to see some team activity as well."

The other teams left out of the restart are Detroit, Cleveland, Charlotte, New York, Atlanta, Minnesota and Golden State.

Before the NBA settled on bringing 22 teams to Disney World for the restart, Karnisovas said he lobbied for the Bulls to be included.

"Absolutely. I mean, we campaigned," he said. "We wanted to play because we thought we need to bring the sports back for our fans during this emotional time. At the end of the day, we have to compromise and do what is best for our league."

Karnisovas and the rest of the front office will get extra time to prepare for the draft, which is rescheduled for Oct. 15. The Bulls have the No. 7 slot for the draft lottery Aug. 25. Karnisovas said the Bulls have already interviewed several draft prospects.

"I disagree that it's a weak class. I like the players," he said. "I like a lot of players that are in our range. I think we are ahead of our evaluation time, we've had numerous interviews with players and we've had so much video work done and conversations about certain players. So we're ahead of the curve right now and we have a lot of time to do even more. I think we'll add a good player to our roster next year."

Karnisovas confirmed the Bulls will hire a new athletic trainer to replace Jeff Tanaka. He said director of performance health Chip Schaefer is involved in the hiring process.

• Twitter: @McGrawDHBulls

Arturas Karnisovas said he's on his way to Chicago and will meet with Bulls coach Jim Boylen and the players face to face for the first time. Associated Press
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