When Arturas Karnisovas traded for Nikola Vucevic and several other rotation pieces at the deadline, I’m sure the last thing he expected was to be speaking with the media on May 17th.
The Bulls front office leader may not have had the most interesting things to say in Monday’s end-of-season press conference, but were there actually many interesting things to say? The team failed. Simple as that. Sure, we are all interested to know how the front office plans to proceed, but the first step is recognizing that what they did over the final 29 games was not enough. Karnisovas did that, and he made it very clear he does not plan to experience this kind of failure again.
“We have to grow through going through what we went through this year and move forward to gain respect in this league,” Karnisovas said. “We are certainly not satisfied, but we will learn from it, adjust, and make sure what did not go well does not happen again.”
At the end of the day, it’s now up to Karnisovas to put his money (and assets) where his mouth is. The only way to make sure that the Bulls’ postseason drought doesn’t stretch another season is to continue to make upgrades. Karnisovas did it with the hire of Donovan, he did it at the trade deadline with the acquisition of Vucevic, and he plans to do it again this offseason.
Karnisovas told reporters his staff will “continue being aggressive” this offseason to seek out improvements, emphasizing that his Bulls organization will not “settle for mediocrity.” Those are all keywords to spew for an executive who is about to enter his second year at the helm of one of the NBA’s most historic franchises. However, it’s fair to question how Karnisovas plans to get that done. He runs the risk of losing this season’s first-round lottery pick after he traded it away in the Vucevic deal (top-4 protected). And while the Bulls can reach some decent cap space this offseason, they are not one of the league leaders.
“If we don’t get our pick, we still have a second-round pick, and we have free agency and trades to get better,” Karnisovas told media members. “We have a lot of free agents this year, and I think leading to August 1st will be huge preparation for us. The next two months will be big.”
If one thing is for sure, the Bulls will have to be active in free agency. Only eight existing players are under contract next season, which means Karnisovas could technically have up to nine roster spots to fill. I’m glad he sounds ready to hit the market hard, but I don’t think I’m wrong to feel a bit uneasy about relying on free agency. The Chicago Bulls have struggled to add impact talent this way for … like … ever.
You: But the Bulls have never had Karnisovas at the helm! Fair, and it also sounds like Karnisovas believes his two top players can make finding the right pieces easier.
I think, like I said, when you have the foundation of two All-Stars in one place, I think it’s easier to add additional things that we need. So we’re going to discuss the needs of the team, and we’ll attack it during free agency.
I like the confidence, but I’ll believe the Bulls successfully use free agency when I see it.
Karnisovas’ mention of making the team better through trades also feels somewhat noteworthy. Obviously, we have already seen this new organization take pretty massive advantage of their first real opportunity to make deals at the deadline. The offseason will present another opportunity to draw some things up, and the Bulls do have a guy like Lauri Markkanen who could be primed for a sign-and-trade, as well as guys like Thaddeus Young and Tomas Satoransky who are on moveable partially guaranteed deals.
Whatever the approach will be, Karnisovas seemed to make clear what we all saw coming for quite some time: There will be serious changes this offseason. Good. I can’t wait.
Check out Arturas Karnisovas’ full end-of-season press conference below:
LIVE: End of Season: Artūras Karnišovas Press Conference https://t.co/DbtWCtcTAO
— Chicago Bulls (@chicagobulls) May 17, 2021