While the Chicago Bulls roster didn’t change much this summer, the expectations sure did.
The Bulls walked into last season with more questions than answers. Nobody knew what the completely renovated roster was capable of nor how the new All-Star nucleus would play together. Fast forward to the All-Star break, however, and the Bulls were a top seed en route to their first playoff series since the 2016-17 season.
That series – nor the end of the regular season – may not have ended in the way the organization wanted, but it still set a new bar for a franchise that had been stuck in the depths of the East for the previous half-decade. The Bulls were now a playoff team, and this front office couldn’t settle for anything less.
“The expectations last year, we knew we were going to be in the playoffs. This year shouldn’t surprise us that we’re going to be in the playoffs, but we have to do better than last year,” Karniosvas told NBC Sports Chicago. “Yearly improvement is what I’m looking for. Ultimately, winning it. That’s the goal. High expectations.”
At the end of the day, Artūras Karnišovas doesn’t get a cookie for holding his team to a higher standard. Year-over-year improvement should always be the goal, as should hunting for a championship. But I’d also be lying if I said his stern and confident remarks weren’t refreshing.
For years on end, we watched a front office settle for mediocrity and preach as much. Early-season goal-setting wasn’t all that common nor was establishing clear expectations. Karnišovas doing as much is at least another reminder of the change we continue to see internally. Sure, his actions may not have felt all that significant this summer, but it’s reassuring to know his mentality remains aggressive. Why? Well, if continuity doesn’t go according to plan, this gives me some hope that swift action will be taken to keep this team in the competitive mix.
“Once you get to the playoffs and you have healthy bodies, a lot of things can happen. So I think we have to do better than last year. Win and get back to the playoffs, as always things happen, certain teams missing one or two key players and you can get by a round. So those are the expectations,” Karnišovas said during Media Day.
Again, I may have my concerns about the approach Karnišovas has chosen heading into this season (primarily because of the sizable improvements made by Eastern Conference competitors). But I can respect the fact that his priorities are clear. His rhetoric has let this roster know that winning a playoff series is the next necessary step. And anything short of that will likely require him to intervene.
I think this is part of the reason why I’ve refused to believe this Bulls team suffers a significant drop-off this year. The front office has made enough aggressive moves and comments in the past that I don’t expect them to cuddle up with a Play-In Tournament spot for the long-haul. If things go south this season, Karnisovas sounds like he’ll act.
For a complete look at Karnišovas‘ Media Day press conference, check out the video below: