Despite distance, Karnisovas is ready to start fixing the Bulls
Arturas Karnisovas would prefer to hit the ground running now that he's taken control of the Bulls' basketball operations.
But he's stuck in Denver and no one knows if or when the NBA season will resume. The Bulls were scheduled to end their regular season on Wednesday in Boston.
"I'll do my best to do a quick turnaround," Karnisovas said Tuesday during an appearance on WSCR 670-AM. "I kind of stay away from the word 'rebuild.' This roster is the second-youngest roster in the league and I'm familiar with that."
Of course, the Bulls are already three years into a sputtering rebuild and never hesitated to use the term "rebuild" when they sent Jimmy Butler to Minnesota in 2017. Since that trade, they've posted a 71-158 record.
"They have a lot of talented guys," Karnisovas said of the current Bulls. "My main thing is to take time right now and to get to know each member of our coaching staff, of each department, to get to know players. Obviously, it's difficult to do right now when we're sitting at home. I think my biggest advantage is face-to-face communication, so it's difficult so far."
The Bulls might have some talented young players, but it's been tough to judge where they are exactly because of numerous injuries and a lack of veterans on the roster who can teach the younger players how to win. During his introductory teleconference on Monday, Karnisovas said the Bulls have a "great young core."
To make progress in the win column, Karnisovas will need to change the roster. Figuring out how to add players with no salary-cap room this summer and limited trade assets will be the challenge.
"I'm looking at from Zach (LaVine) to Lauri (Markkanen) to Wendell (Carter) to Coby (White), those great young pieces out there," Karnisovas said. "Until I sit down and talk to those guys and just to see what they think about what happened last year and their experiences and what worked, what didn't work -- I think that's important for me to do and I haven't done it yet."
Karnisovas was asked again Tuesday about the coaching staff and continued to be noncommittal about the futures of Jim Boylen and the assistants.
"So far there's no decision to be made, there's just evaluation period, how we've done things in the past," Karnisovas said. "This relationship is most important relationship probably in the organization -- your coach, who is leading your team.
"I have already spoke to Jim numerous times. We're going get on Zoom calls and we're going to look at a lot of video, look at offense, defense, defensive schemes. We'll have time to do so."
It's possible Karnisovas already has someone in mind to hire as coach. He was a Seton Hall teammate of former Bulls forward and current Toronto assistant Adrian Griffin. Ex-Brooklyn coach Kenny Atkinson is another available candidate, if Karnisovas preferred someone with head coaching experience.
The rationale for keeping Boylen is he's been working with a roster that had no chance to win, between the lack of veterans and frequent injuries. It could make sense to work on fixing the roster before judging Boylen and his staff. The Bulls also hired two new assistants last summer in Chris Fleming and Roy Rogers. Firing coaches would be an expensive proposition at a time when NBA revenues have fallen.
On Monday, Karnisovas talked about the prospect of his predecessor, John Paxson, sticking around in an advisory role.
"John has a great reputation around the league and has been with the organization for a number of years, and can be an asset of information," Karnisovas said. "He's been gracious in welcoming me, I've appreciated his candor, and has great love for the Bulls and the city of Chicago. So I see him now as an asset and could be a huge help while I'm making this transition."
Preparing for the NBA draft is also on the docket, even though it's likely to be rescheduled.
"We're going to keep our staff busy," Karnisovas said. "We're going to evaluate players on video. We're going to discuss them. We're going to rank them. We're going to do all the things we can do expecting the draft is going to be on June 25 until the further announcement is made."