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Arturas Karnisovas takes accountability for Chicago Bulls shortcomings

Will Gottlieb Avatar
April 20, 2024

Following the Chicago Bulls second consecutive Play-In exit, Executive Vice President of Basketball Operations Arturas Karnisovas took accountability for the team’s shortcomings.

“It goes without saying the conclusion of the season fell short of expectations, regardless of injury status,” Karnisovas said. “Any season where we don’t get deep into the postseason requires close examination which has already begun. I can talk about all our players through a positive lens, but in totality, as a team, we didn’t meet expectations.”

After neglecting to make trades at the February 8 deadline, Karnisovas avoided explicitly stating goals for the team’s success to which he could hold himself accountable. After coming into the job in 2020 with championship aspirations, he lowered the bar to competing hard on a nightly basis.

However, in a notable shift, he altered his tone in his postseason availability.

“We aren’t here for the Play-In,” he said. “It’s a team game and we have to make changes to fix things. I take full responsibility for where we are right now. I know our fans aren’t satisfied with where we finished the season and neither am I….In this business, you win or you learn. So while I can be happy with some growth and learning this year, I won’t be satisfied until we bring a championship to the city of Chicago. That’s what I was hired, that’s why I’m here, and my missions remain unchanged.”

In the past, Karnisovas bought too much into a team that had proven it was not good enough. He was unwilling to enter a rebuild, despite that seemingly being the best approach to improving the team’s ability to compete at a high level.

Now, it appears he is open to all options.

“Analysis will start right now and go into free agency,” Karnisovas said when asked if a rebuild was still off the table. “I think we’re going to be pretty aggressive, the way we showed before going into the draft and free agency. We obviously can’t roll (out) the same team again and expect different results.”

“Everything is on the table,” he emphasized.

Karnisovas was non-committal in answering questions about the specifics of change. He said there was interest from both sides with regards to both DeMar DeRozan and Patrick Williams’ free agencies. He will have to navigate Lonzo Ball’s contract and potential return, as well as Zach LaVine’s unresolved trade saga. His only strong endorsement went to Billy Donovan.

“I like what Billy has done here for the past four years,” he said. “Billy is someone that you build the program with. He is a very good coach and even a better human being. We established a winning expectations, we defined a profile for the Bulls players and put an emphasis on player development. It is also on me to facilitate Billy with the resources he needs to build a team that can be successful consistently.”

So while it’s unclear what exactly will change, this was the first time Karnisovas admitted change was needed at all.

Taking accountability for the failure was the right thing to do. And while it’s fair to assert that he should have come to this conclusion sooner, there was no possibility for Karnisovas to improve the Bulls standing without first acknowledging significant change is needed.

Clearing this hurdle is a big step forward.

“This group, something doesn’t work,” Karnisovas stated. “I’ve got to find ways to find a group that’s going to make improvements because we’ve done that for a couple of years now. It hasn’t worked so everything is on the table.”

This upcoming offseason will determine whether or not he is serious about winning at a high level and competing for Championships. DeRozan’s free agency will be telling. Is it finally time to move towards a younger core? Alex Caruso is in the final year of his contract and becomes extension eligible after the season. Will the Bulls finally capitalize on his value to secure assets for the future? Nikola Vucevic and Zach LaVine’s contracts weigh down the Bulls cap sheet. Can they find suitors to offload them for positive value? The Bulls owe their 2025 first round pick to the San Antonio Spurs (top-10 protected) in what projects to be a loaded draft class. Will the Bulls move towards retaining it?

It all comes to a head this offseason. The Bulls face tough decisions that will require creative problem-solving and foresight. And for the first time, it appears they are willing to take on that challenge.

There’s plenty of time to explore options, analyze the draft class, manipulate the salary cap and talk trades. But for now, Karnisovas’ comments, accountability and desire for change were the best possible outcome for his end of season press conference.

Major change is needed. It seems Karnisovas is finally ready for it.

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