If you would have told me back when the Covid-19 lockdowns started that the Chicago Bulls would be the team to clear house and start making moves, I’d have assumed that meant they fired the entire ticketing department to make a bigger office for noted rat faced human Gar Foreman.
Alas, it was better news for the erstwhile second city basketball team, as reports have come out that the Bulls have hired Denver Nuggets General Manager Arturas Karnisovas to become the vice president of basketball operations, which essentially makes him the head of the day to day operations of the team. Karnisovas is well regarded around the league. He started as an international scout for the Houston Rockets and has worked his way up during his various stops in the NBA. He is well regarded enough that his co workers for the Nuggets were alternately sad he was leaving, but happy for him that he is getting a job he deserves.
If you need any more reason to think that he is right for the job, consider these two things.
1: He scouted and drafted Nikola Jokic in the second round of the 2014 draft.
2: in that same draft, he depants’d the Bulls by drafting Doug McDermott, then trading him to the Bulls for the draft rights to Jusuf Nurkic and Gary Harris.
Karnisovas has helped turn the Denver Nuggets into a contender in the Western Conference by making smart trades and free agent signings. The Nuggets were rarely in conversation with the top free agents, but always smartly signed players that fit the system the team was trying to run. Over the past four seasons, the Nuggets had a record of 183-128. The Bulls, meanwhile, sported a spectacular(ly bad) record of 112-199. At the time of the NBA pausing it’s season, Denver was 20 games above .500.
Arturas takes over for the worn out comedy duo of John Paxson and Gar Foreman. You might remember these two for such classics as: drafting Marquise Teague even though coach Tom Thibodeau wanted Draymond Green, leaking false information about Thibodeau so they could look good when firing him, the aforementioned Doug McDermott trade, making a completely unqualified Fred Hoiberg head coach, signing Dwayne Wade, holding an end-of-season press conference in the middle of the night during Kobe Bryant’s final game so nobody would notice, drafting Tony Snell over Rudy Gobert, firing Hoiberg and promoting human penis Jim Boylen, having the team almost immediately mutiny, giving Boylen an extension after that mutiny, turning the team into a laughing stock just in time for the NBA All Star game in Chicago, never making the NBA finals, and numerous other offenses that would have gotten anyone else fired a long time ago.
While it isn’t known if either will be given a different job with the team, Paxson has already indicated he is willing to resign from the team, while Foreman has proven time and time again that he deserves nothing more than to be tarred and feathered on his way out the door. If you remember, Foreman is the one that forced coaches to keep Randy Brown on the coaching staff because he was a rat who told Gar everything that was happening with the team. He would also confiscate employee’s computers and phones to see if they were leaking information about him. Not exactly a person anyone would call a “sympathetic figure.”
While the jettisoning of GarPax shouldn’t be seen as a surprise, his replacement is. Karnisovas is the first major outside hire by the Bulls since Jerry Reinsdorf bought that team in 1984. His first GM hire was Jerry Krause, who had been a scout with the team since the 70’s. When Krause was eventually fired for thinking Eddie Robinson and Brent Barry could replace Michael Jordan and Scottie Pippen, Paxson was brought in from the radio announcing booth. When Paxson was promoted, Gar Foreman was promoted from scouting and chewing on dry wall to be the general manager. It is a testament to Jerry Reinsdorf’s loyalty that Foreman lasted as long as he did, and it was that same loyalty that would be his undoing.
When the Bulls held “Luol Deng Night” this past season, everyone came to town to celebrate the former star of the 2000’s Bulls teams. Joakim Noah, Kirk Hinrich, and a host of other Bulls came to celebrate. When word got back to Reinsdorf that Foreman had been aloof and standoffish towards the players that night, it was the last straw. Foreman was neutered of his responsibilities and was told to go sit quietly in the corner. Word is that he will not be missed within the front office.
What is Arturas walking into? Sources say he will have the latitude to build his own front office. This means he will bring in a combination of up and coming executives like Michael Finley and Michael Hughes, and veterans like Danny Ferry and Bryan Colangelo. If he wants to earn early fandom in the city, he will make the Gar Foreman firing as public as possible.
Roster wise, he inherits a talented if flawed and miscoached roster. Coby White has shown glimpses of potentially being the next Jamal Crawford. Wendell Carter has flashed when healthy. Zach Lavine looks like he will continue to fill up stat sheets. Lauri Markkanen has been frustrating under the coaching of Jim Boylen, but Karnisovas has a long friendship with Lauri’s agent, and fences could be mended. Daniel Gafford is a real piece. Otto Porter is still around to eat up cap space.
Speaking of cap space, while Porter’s contract along with an extension for Markkanen will slow the Bulls attempts to make a big dip in free agency this off-season, brighter days are ahead. In the summer of 2021, if they don’t exercise Porter’s option (44 million!?!?) And she’d Thad Young’s contract, they will be sitting on 70 million dollars in cap space while still having Lavine, White, Carter, whoever they draft this year, and Markkanen on the roster. There is light at the end of the tunnel.
Just in case you were wondering who is a free agent in 2021, peep this list:
There will be tough times ahead. Luckily, the Bulls seem to have a real plan in place for the first time in years. And the upside is, if loyalty remains unchanged Karnisovas will have plenty of time to build up something great.