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Chicago Bulls GM Arturas Karnisovas: "We want to get in the Playoffs"

Will Gottlieb Avatar
October 3, 2023

Since their season ended, the Bulls have had a lot of time to ruminate in the results.

“It’s been a long 5.5 months since the season ended,” Arturas Karnisovas said in his opening remarks at Media Day. “We went into the offseason thinking about that Miami game, what we could have done better. That trickled down to define the reasons we were 40-42. We’d done some things that we liked and some things that we didn’t like. Things that we liked: We were pretty good against the top teams, and we were top five in defense. The things we didn’t like was how many games we lost close, and we finished 24th in offense.”

The top of the East is stronger than ever. But there is some room for upward mobility within the middle class.

And with the additions of Jevon Carter and Torrey Craig, Karnisovas believes he has the right mix of talent to compete in that range.

“I’m optimistic about this group,” he said. “I believe in this group. I believe in Billy improving certain things. We had goals last year focused on improving our record against good teams, and improving our defense. We accomplished that. We took a step back on offense, and it was actually the details. We scored more points than the year prior, but we were still 24th because everybody else made adjustments. It’s about adjusting from the past year and getting some improvement.”

The offensive struggles stand out as one of the biggest head-scratchers. How is a team with three offense-first stars so bad on offense? It’s not a case of cold shooting — the Bulls were third in field goal percentage last season, 12th in effective field goal percentage. And yet the offense finished 24th. There’s a disconnect there that indicates things need to be done differently, not just better.

With largely the same roster, Karnisovas is asking a lot of this group. LaVine, DeRozan, Vucevic and Donovan will have to work together to create a new plan and buy into the execution. Then, if things work out, we might start to think about adding artillery in the form of the disabled player exception.

Of course, that would come at a cost.

“I think we’re at the point where we’re going to go into the luxury tax if we’re confirming this is the group,” Karnisovas said. “I think this is just giving more time for this group to figure it out. And I think once you have consistent success, you can go for it.”

Especially considering there is $20 million worth of dead money on the books for this season, it becomes difficult to justify paying the tax to improve the team to get to a legit Playoff spot, rather than paying once you become one.

“In all my conversations with Jerry and Michael, obviously they have no problem going into it,” Karnisovas said. “But we have to make sure it’s the right group. I believe in them. I have faith in them going into this season. We’ll see how the season plays out.”

The Bulls have stated their belief in the current group at every given opportunity and that a tear down is not on the table. They’ve also expressed a belief that a Playoff (not just Play In) spot is within their grasp.

If they believe in the group and feel they can make noise, you have to wonder whether they were aggressive in trying to add talent to the roster to elevate themselves in the arms race.

“I don’t comment on rumors or how much we were involved, but we’re always going to look for ways to improve, get aggressive,” Karnisovas said. “At this time, I think the group that we have, we’re going pretty confident into training camp, and I’m looking forward to see them on the floor and what they did this summer.”

That’s a lot to ask: play differently and produce better results without much in the form of a revamped roster. They’ll need to prove they’re worth it before they can add some firepower.

All with the goal of a Playoff, not just Play In, spot.

“We want to get in the Playoffs,” Karnisovas declared. “Example last year that once you get in the Playoffs, there’s an opportunity for a lot of teams. And it goes into matchups, if you’re healthy. There’s a lot of factors once you get in the Playoffs. That would be my view for this team.”

“Right now, the comments about us, a lot of people are not expecting us to be anywhere,” ge continued. “Actually, I compare it to two years ago. The expectations are pretty much the same. But I have faith in this group and Billy that we are going to be a good team.”

It’s a lot to ask, but Karnisovas has put together a team talented enough to achieve that goal.

“Going into this training camp, I’m looking forward to seeing it on the floor,” he said.

Internal belief

There has been plenty of talk over the summer about the wide open nature of the Eastern Conference. Then the Bucks went and won the Damian Lillard sweepstakes, and the Celtics upgraded to Jrue Holiday.

“I don’t really care,” Jevon Carter said when asked about the landscape altering moves at the top of the Eastern Conference. “I’m a Chicago Bull. I’m not really thinking about Boston or Milwaukee.”

A welcome first impression.

“Everybody’s 0-0 right now,” LaVine said. “Obviously, they made some big trade acquisitions, added high-level guards. Obviously, everything looks good on paper. But we put the work in. If you don’t believe in your group or your guys, you shouldn’t show up.”

The Bulls want to use these matchups as a measuring stick to see what they’re made of.

“I love it,” DeRozan said. “The competition level should want to bring the best out of you and want to compete against that. That’s how I look at it, that’s my view. And that’s one thing I express to the guys, when you see that, you gotta get more hungry, understanding you want to go against those big-teams like that and compete.”

“I felt like there was a lot of work undone,” Vucevic said. “I felt like this team had a lot more to show and improve on.”

It all starts on Sunday, with the first preseason game coming against the new-look Bucks in Milwaukee.

More from Media Day

[DeRozan, Williams contract extensions loom over make-or-break season]

[Lonzo Ball update and the Bulls point guard battle royale]

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