As the Chicago Bulls have cruised to a first-place standing in the Eastern Conference behind miraculous buzzer-beaters and highlight dunks, Arturas Karnisovas has kept his mouth shut.
To be sure, Bulls fans have come to expect nothing less from the tight-lipped executive vice president of basketball operations. He’s a man of few words who speaks like a robot programmed to hedge his bets. And this was on full display Thursday morning when speaking on 670 The Score’s Mully & Haugh show.
With the February deadline looming, the man who orchestrated one of NBA’s best stories this season was asked whether he plans to keep writing.
“I like this group. I like this group a lot,” Karnisovas said. “Like I said, we’re competing right now this season. It’s a new group, right? Teams that are close by, like Brooklyn, Milwaukee, Philly, they have their group for two or more years at least, and we’ve had this group for three months. We’re still learning, we’re still adjusting. I like this group a lot …
But, at the same time, we are also open to any kind of possibilities and we’ll listen. However, like I said, I love this group.”
The art of the waffle. Let’s try to digest it.
While it’s tough to ever know exactly where the Bulls front office lands, I will at least take Karnisovas at his word: “I love this group.” Not only is that easy to believe when a team holds the NBA’s 4th-best record, but it’s even easier to believe when we know this is a Karnisovas-made roster. When he spoke favorably ahead of last season’s trade deadline about his hand-me-down group, it was not particularly hard to interpret it as a much more calculated choice. Now, he is talking about a roster he built from the ground up this offseason, one we can all believe he is less prone to disrupt.
I also can’t help but find a mention of the Bucks, Nets, and 76ers as somewhat telling. By pointing toward these cores, it sure sounds like he’s suggesting that minimal movement rests ahead. He wants a core of Lonzo Ball, Zach LaVine, DeMar DeRozan, and Nikola Vucevic to marinate, and why wouldn’t he? If ain’t broke, don’t fix it.
But where things get tricky is deciphering who else belongs in Karnisovas’ core. Is Patrick Williams and Coby White a part of it? What about the other role players? Is his ideal world one where he makes moves around the margins or adds one more big piece? By the way, we talked more about that here.
Precedent says he is still never afraid to make the big move, and he certainly left the door cracked when he noted that he remains “open to any kind of possibilities.” However, a staple in his conversation with Mully & Haugh was the current team’s chemistry. As he robotically fawned over this team’s locker room vibe, he made a point to say that any decision the team makes can’t disrupt that special connection.
“We like to see how this group works together,” Karnisovas said. “And we got to be really sensitive to any changes – if any – we will have. Like I said, these guys, great locker room. Great vibe. They like each other, so it’s a joy to watch what they’re doing on the floor.”
The bigger the move, the bigger the risk. Everything about this Chicago Bulls team feels properly balanced, and adding one more major name can always tip the scale.
This is what drags me toward believing the Bulls might keep it simple over the next couple of months. Of course, that isn’t to say a new piece or two isn’t added to round things out, but the long-term success Karnisovas covets, as well as the mere liking for this current roster, could lead them to ride this existing roster in Year 1.
BREAKING NEWS: THE CHICAGO BULLS TRADE FOR ANTHONY DAVIS, YOU IDIOT