Plenty of talk, Karnisovas says, but no trades for Bulls at the deadline

What is there to say after a trade-deadline day where nothing actually happened?

Bulls vice president of basketball operations Arturas Karnisovas said he expects the Bulls to make the playoffs, he was a buyer looking to improve the roster, but ultimately no potential deals made sense.

So the Bulls will finish the final 28 games of the regular season with the same group, unless they add a player who accepts a buyout from another team and becomes a free agent.

"We made calls, we got a lot of calls. It was pretty busy," Karnisovas said. "But at the end of the day, I think we were also buyers, we wanted to improve our team. But we couldn't capitalize on that."

Karnisovas spoke to reporters in Brooklyn, where the Bulls played Thursday night. The Nets made the week's two biggest deals, sending Kevin Durant to Phoenix late Wednesday night, after moving Kyrie Irving to Dallas.

"I still have confidence in this group right now," Karnisovas said. "There's still wiggle room, there's some parity in the East. I think the trade deadline kind of shifted some quality more toward the West, so there's a chance obviously to compete in the Eastern Conference. There's a lot of teams that are pretty good, but they are just scrunched all together, so I think there's a chance there the next 28 games."

Heading into Thursday's action, the Bulls were ninth in the East, which would put them in the play-in tournament. But they were just 3½ games out of the No. 6 seed and 6 games behind Brooklyn for fifth. A strong finish could put the Bulls in a better spot, theoretically.

Karnisovas is encouraged by the Bulls beating good teams more often this season. They've gone 9-6 against the top six teams in the East.

The only rumor of note was the Bulls talking to the Knicks about a deal involving Zach LaVine. Including R.J. Barrett in such a trade probably wouldn't work because he's in the final year of his rookie contract, with an extension kicking in next year. Collective bargaining rules make it difficult to move such a player.

So a deal with the Knicks would have been a sign of surrender, the first step to another rebuild. Karnisovas said he still has faith this group of players can make a playoff run, then moves can made in the summer to improve the roster. He suggested there will be an update on the status of injured guard Lonzo Ball after the all-star break.

"Mediocrity and average is not OK with us," Karnisovas said. "There were so many buyers. There were a lot of teams that didn't want to take a step back, including us. So we tried to improve our team, but at what cost? That price was not OK with us."

It's possible the Bulls won't have any draft picks this summer, since their own first-rounder goes to Orlando unless its in the top four, and they'll only get Portland's first-rounder if the Blazers make the playoffs.

Center Nikola Vucevic will be a free agent. Karnisovas said Vucevic is having an "unbelievable year" and wants him to stay in Chicago. Whether Vucevic re-signs or not, the Bulls won't have cap space. They can change the roster through trades or by using the midlevel exception to sign a free agent or two, which would likely mean paying the luxury tax, something the Bulls rarely do.

"We've turned the roster around in the last couple of years," Karnisovas said. "We've done deals in the summertime that a lot of people said we couldn't do. I think there's ways to improve it.

"I think you have to have an open mind, especially when you're in ninth or 10th place. You have to look at yourself realistically, but I think at the end of the day, we looked at this group as the best way to go for the next 28 games."

Time will tell which players are available in the buyout market. Russell Westbrook figures to be the biggest name, and he spent four years with coach Billy Donovan in Oklahoma City. But Westbrook has already been linked to the Clippers and Heat as possible destinations.

Some other players who may be available are point guards Patrick Beverley and Reggie Jackson, and forward Will Barton. Beverley is a Chicago native.

There were a number of smaller moves Thursday, but nothing that stands out as a game-changer. One deal with local ties saw Benet Academy's Frank Kaminsky and ex-Bull Justin Holiday moving from Atlanta to Houston for Garrison Matthews and Bruno Fernando.

Twitter: @McGrawDHSports

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