NBA Front Office Report: Bulls Break Up Front Office To Restart Rebuilding Process
Paxson era ends as Nuggets GM assumes VP position
The John Paxosn era in the Chicago Bulls franchise has now come to an end. After being tasked with overseeing every basketball movement and decision within one of the proudest organizations in the NBA, Paxson will be replaced by Arturas Karnisovas, the current general manager of the Denver Nuggets. ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski reported about this exciting development for the Bulls’ future.
“The Chicago Bulls are hiring Denver Nuggets general manager Arturas Karnisovas to become the franchise's new executive vice president of basketball operations, league sources told ESPN.
The sides were finalizing contractual details on a multiyear deal late Wednesday night, after the team offered the job to Karnisovas shortly after completing a second round of interviews, sources said.”
Karnisovas, 48, is a former professional basketball player in Europe. The Lithuanian small forward went undrafted in the 1994 NBA Draft, but he established a celebrated international basketball career. He was named the FIBA European Player of the Year in 1996, and has been a fixture for the national basketball team of Lithuania. After hanging up the sneakers, Karnisovas then took his talents to the NBA, where he worked for the league’s basketball operations office and then served as international scout for the Houston Rockets.
It was in 2013 when he finally had the break of his executive career. He was hired by the Nuggets that year to become their assistant general manager, then was promoted to the GM position four years later. Under Karnisovas’ tenure, he rebuilt the team around big-time draft decisions that netted them Nikola Jokic, Jamal Murray and Gary Harris. The brilliant hiring of head coach Michael Malone also became the franchise’s turning point as they grew into an elite contender in the Western Conference.
For the Bulls franchise, this should be a step towards the right direction. The team has been sporting losing records for the past couple of seasons, and this year is not different. With a lowly 22-43 win-loss card, they are again poised to miss out on the playoffs if the league decides to resume the current season. Players aren’t happy, and they don’t have a good working relationship with their coach and the team’s front office.
According to Joe Cowley of the Chicago Sun-Times, Bulls young budding big man Lauri Markkanen is slowly losing his patience. His minutes and role have decreased this season, and his production also dipped as a result. Cowley wrote that there is a possibility that the sweet-shooting power forward will demand a trade out of Chicago if the situation doesn’t change for the better.
“Markkanen has completely gone backwards in his development with Boylen, and has rarely been a factor on the court at the same time as Zach LaVine. One of those problems is very easy to remedy, especially if the new front office wants to bring in a head coach of their choosing.
The LaVine problem is much more difficult to figure out, especially because Markkanen and LaVine were identified as the two foundation pieces to carry this rebuild, and their games should complement each other.”
With this recent change-up to their front office, Markkanen may not be closing the door on the Bulls after all. Karnisovas comes from international roots, and he should be liking what he sees from the young Finnish combo big. Like many other international frontcourt stars, Markkanen packs a solid inside-outside game to his offensive repertoire, and he has the athleticism and mobility to go with it. If he can bulk up his body even more develop good defensive instincts, an All-Star appearance may not be that far-fetched for him.
And of course, there is the Boylen issue lurking on Karnisovas. Boylen’s tough and traditional approach to coaching has made it very difficult for his players to appreciate him. LaVine has been dropping hints all season long regarding his distrust on Boylen, and the latter has not backed down even a bit in his firm approach.
Rick Morrisey of the Chicago Sun-Times emphasized that with all the new personnel movements they raked in, keeping Boylen will make no sense.
“Judging by fan-base anger, the public perception is that the Bulls have a goober for a head coach. Fair or unfair, true or untrue, it doesn’t matter. That’s the perception. Listen to the very, very not nice things that talk-show callers have to say about Jim Boylen or read the nastiness that Bulls fans write about him on social media. If Karnisovas wants to avoid taking two steps back when he walks into team headquarters for the first time, he’ll fire Boylen at his earliest convenience.
The situation is untenable. The Bulls can’t present a new world and keep Boylen. They can’t trumpet change and then vote for more of the same, old thing.”
Karnisovas may come with tremendous credibility and upside, and his diverse and vast connections will help him hire brilliant executives to take over Chicago’s front office with him. But it will not be enough without the proper voice to lead the players in the locker room and on the court. Right now, Boylen isn’t that voice so it would not come as a surprise if the Bulls also end up searching for a new head coach after this season.
Karnisovas brings in another new face to the retooled Bulls front office
Just a couple of days after reports surfaced regarding his new gig as the Bulls’ vice president of basketball operations, Karnisovas has already brought in two new faces to the team. ESPN’s Andrew Lopez recently reported that the Bulls have hired a new assistant in general manager in J.J. Polk, the New Orleans Pelicans’ current executive director of basketball administration.
Lopez also went on to say that Chicago is already engaged in “serious talks” with Karnisovas’ Nuggets colleague and team scout Pat Connelly for a potential seat in the front office.
“Polk joins a new Chicago front office led by Arturas Karnisovas and is not expected to be the only assistant GM the organization hires. Sources told ESPN's Adrian Wojnarowski that another candidate in serious talks to join the Bulls' front office is Denver Nuggets scout Pat Connelly, who has a strong background in player personnel and was previously an assistant GM with the Phoenix Suns.”
This will be Karnisovas’ first official hiring as he continues to retool the Bulls team and direct them towards a bright future. Polk has already been with the Pelicans for nine years, and is considered one of the team’s experts in salary cap management and contract negotiations.
Many reports say that Karnisovas will make multiple hires for the assistant GM position, although it is emphasized that their priority right now is to bring in a new general manager to replace the long-tenured Gar Forman. It was already reported last month that Forman is set to step down from his role, and that he won’t have any say in the decisions that the team will make moving forward.
With that said, Yahoo Sports’ Vincent Goodwill said that Karnisovas’ will emphasize diversity in making his hires.
“The Chicago Bulls haven’t had a history of hiring high-ranking minority executives or front-facing figures, but the plan is to change that, sources told Yahoo Sports.
The Bulls are hiring Denver Nuggets general manager Arturas Karnisovas to head their basketball operations, and Karnisovas plans to hire a person of color to be the franchise’s general manager, a league source told Yahoo Sports.”
As for the Bulls’ search for their next general manager, Goodwill said that the team is already pursuing multiple figures but have been denied of interviews. Goodwill reported that the Bulls have asked permission from the Oklahoma City Thunder to pitch the GM position to the team’s VP of basketball operations Troy Weaver but was denied of the opportunity. They also talked to the Toronto Raptors about potentially interviewing general manager Bobby Webster, but was also denied.
Weaver is an African-American, while Webster is a Japanese-American.