This past Monday, Bulls Vice-President of Basketball Operations Arturas Karnisovas took questions from the media via video conference call. The Bulls were about to play the Denver Nuggets, the team Arturas formerly was a part of for 7 seasons, and you could tell he was in good spirits. He took a number of questions related to the direction he wants the Bulls to move in during the second half of the season; it’s a topic I addressed in my last blog post. In the post, I proposed three options for Arturas and the rest of the Round Table: 1) Tear it all down and start from scratch, 2) trade young players for veterans to support Zach LaVine in making a push for the playoffs, and/or 3) just keep on keeping on, trusting that coach Billy Donovan will form a playoff contender with the current roster. After watching the press conference, I am convinced the Bulls are leaning toward that third option, staying the course and relying on this roster to improve.
It’s not a bad strategy. It’s the reason they hired Billy Donovan, to develop the young talent on the roster. It’s certainly not the sexy option, and it’s probably not the most popular direction among Bulls fans, but there has been real improvement across the roster this season. The growth from players like Zach LaVine, Wendell Carter Jr, Patrick Williams, and even Coby White, is undeniable. Donovan’s use of bench players, his balance in rotations between youth and experience, has also helped improve the team. Gone are the days of playing all the bench players in every game just to play them. Donovan uses players based on match ups, or how a player has been contributing while in game. He has his normal rotations for sure, but he is more than willing to switch things up if a more favorable option presents itself, or if he feels the status quo needs a shake up.
I realize I started this post with the Karnisovas presser and quickly transitioned to singing the praises of Billy Donovan. Let’s get back on track shall we…
Throughout the press conference, Arturas Karnisovas was very complimentary of individuals while still being critical of the team overall. He pointed out the individual growth of certain players, surprisingly even saying that Lauri Markkanen was meeting his expectations for the season. Even with his positive outlook on the roster, he didn’t shy away from sharing his disappointment in the number of turnovers and fouls the Bulls have been committing this season. You can tell Arturas has been paying attention to the games. He continued to surprise by dropping some advanced stats when talking about the Bulls woes in late game situations, something unheard of during the GarPax era. The more I hear from Arturas, or Marc Eversley, or Billy Donovan, the more I feel like the Bulls are in good hands and headed in the right direction.
On the subject of the upcoming trade deadline, Karnisovas forcefully voiced that he doesn’t view any of his players simply as trade pieces, which was wonderful to hear from an executive. Especially in sports, it’s easy to reduce a player to a commodity, focusing on their “value” and what they can bring back to the team in a trade, all the while robbing them of their human dignity. I know I’ve been guilty of that. It’s a credit to this front office that they take the time to develop more than just a professional relationship with the players on the team, seeing them as more than just basketball commodities. After all, they are in it together. The Round Table’s success depends on what the players do on the court. It’s important that they understand, appreciate, and respect each other. From a players perspective, I can only imagine it’s much easier to play hard for a boss you like and respect, than it is to play for someone you distrust and/or fear. It’s early in this front office’s tenure, but as they begin to grow their relationships with the players, it seems there is mutual understanding, appreciation, and respect, and I am hopeful that will translate into winning.
Until it does thanks for reading and GO BULLS!