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Michael Reinsdorf surprised by Arturas Karnisovas' quick turnaround of Bulls

After years of front-office and coaching disarray, Chicago Bulls president and chief operating officer Michael Reinsdorf hired Arturas Karnisovas in April 2020 to reshape his basketball operations and restore playoff contention. So far, the results are remarkable. Years of organizational missteps and mistrust faded fast, replaced with a fully functional first-place franchise. “When we hired Arturas, I was confident that he would help turn things around, but I can’t say I thought it would be this quickly,” Reinsdorf told ESPN. “There are no issues. There’s no drama. Just everyone wanting to get to the next level. It’s a good feeling.”

The Bulls have missed the playoffs in six of the past seven years, but that’s likely to change this spring. Reinsdorf believes the decision to hire Karnisovas amid the league’s shutdown delivered him an ability to expedite the organizational rebuild. “We hired Arturas at the beginning of COVID, when a lot of teams were in a holding pattern,” Reinsdorf told ESPN. “A lot of times, people come and clean house. He took the time to get to know people in our organization.”

“Arturas and Billy really took the time to get to know Zach LaVine, and knew that he wanted to win,” Reinsdorf told ESPN. “Zach had been on some bad teams, and just like it wasn’t Devin Booker’s fault in Phoenix for those years, it wasn’t Zach’s fault here. We needed to get him help. Billy, Arturas and (general manager) Marc Eversley spend a lot of time with our players. These aren’t assets, these are people. But especially with Zach, they took time to understand what he is all about. It was easy for people on the outside to say, “Oh, he’s just a scorer and he doesn’t care.’ But these knew better about Zach, because they spend time and get beyond the basketball with him.”

It’s unlikely Eversley would jump without receiving full control in Portland. But if talks move in that direction, Eversley would be a big loss. Agents have told me Eversley has brought a different level of credibility to the organization through his previous existing relationships. He played a key role in helping the Bulls land Donovan and DeRozan among others. But for now, Bulls fans have nothing to fear. Portland’s process has just begun, and Eversley has enjoyed a fruitful partnership with Bulls chief basketball executive Arturas Karnišovas.

General Manager Marc Eversley spoke to media members on Wednesday, giving insight on the hiring of Billy Donovan, the challenge of bringing the Bulls back to relevance, and how Otto Porter Jr. has looked at Advocate Bulls Minicamp. At least the Bulls aren’t setting expectations too high this time. “This team is better than a 22-win team, the talent is,” Bulls General Manager Marc Eversley was saying Wednesday during a Zoom conference with local media. “If we tweak it and do some little things, I think we’ll see some results that are positive. “When we came in, we talked a lot about player development,” Eversley added during his first media session since his introductory comments on May 1. “I like a lot of the players on this roster.

And in some sense, the fact the Bulls are drawing from executives who have varying backgrounds working for different franchises could help them. Each will bring different perspectives and predraft protocols to the table. The fact Karnišovas and Eversley are using holdovers like Brian Hagen and Steve Weinman also gives some of the previous regime’s flavor. That regime had more draft hits than misses. I’ve heard Karnišovas has valued his relationship with senior adviser John Paxson, who ceded complete autonomy but is willing to assist the new regime whenever they ask him for any input.

It’s been expressed very publicly by the likes of Denzel Valentine and second-round pick Daniel Gafford, and it’s also been expressed privately with the Sun-Times reporting that several key players were very open with executive vice president of basketball operations Arturas Karnisovas in initial conversations that went on when Karnisovas was hired, painting a very mixed review of the job Boylen had been doing. Enough so that several NBA scouts familiar with Eversley and Karnisovas had heard that the two were zeroing in on going after Philadelphia assistant coach Ime Udoka to take over the head coaching seat.

Bulls staying put?

I don’t know Arturas Karnisovas and Marc Eversley well enough to know exactly what all their future plans are. I will tell you in the conversations I have had with people that are in the know and just kind of the what’s going on around the team… my sense is that they like the roster. Not I’m not saying anybody’s untouchable, but they think that there’s talent on the roster and they’re more focused on why has that a talent underachieved as opposed to making major changes.

The Bulls hired Eversley three weeks after vehement blowback from Black executives over not having any candidates for the open executive vice-president of basketball operations job. Former Nuggets GM Arturas Karnisovas got the top job, while Eversley was hired as the No. 2 man. Behind the scenes, there’s still skepticism about the Bulls. “I could just see people saying they hired him because they needed a Black face,” said one high-ranking African American team executive who spoke on the condition of anonymity.

Another African American senior league executive, speaking anonymously, asked why Eversley didn’t get interviewed for the top job. “With all due respect, I am delighted that Marc Eversley is the GM of the Bulls,” the league executive said. “But why wasn’t Marc Eversley interviewed to be the president of basketball operations? Why was there no one of color interviewed for that position? You mean to tell me that there was nobody in the mind of the leadership of the Bulls qualified to take on that job as president? Or was it just that they don’t know anybody? “So the question I’m asking is what took them so long. Somebody needs to ask the question. That question needs to be asked more and more league-wide.”

As in any industry, connectivity is imperative, and often times cultural perspective can get ignored. But that perspective is pivotal in every aspect of NBA business, from scouting to coaching to negotiations. “It’s a relationship business,” the Western Conference exec said. “You’ve got to have relationships with the players and coaches. For all of us to be connected in some form or fashion it only bodes well. There should be no separation. Everyone should be working together to push the franchise forward and win.”

Karnisovas and general manager Marc Eversley already have had detailed discussions with players and retained personnel from the previous regime and were getting enough mixed reviews that they were leaning toward starting with a new coach. Ownership and former vice president of basketball operations John Paxson have supported Boylen, but a source reiterated that Bulls president Michael Reins-dorf was by no means trying to influence the front office’s decision and would allow Boylen’s dismissal if Karnisovas wanted to go that route. No questions asked.

The Sun-Times has reported that Karnisovas and general manager Marc Eversley have already had detailed discussions with players and retained personnel, and were getting enough mixed feedback of what’s gone on the last year that they were leaning toward starting with a new coach of their choosing. Ownership and former VP of basketball operations John Paxson have given support for Boylen, but a source reiterated that COO Michael Reinsdorf was by no means influencing the front office’s decision on the coach and would allow Boylen’s dismissal if Karnisovas wants to go that way. No questions asked.

Marc Eversley, the first black man to become general manager of the Chicago Bulls, will certainly be noticed in the Windy City, standing 6 feet, 8 inches tall. But in his quest to help rebuild the Bulls, he also hopes to be visible among Chicago’s black youth and use his story to inspire others. “I am a black man who has a leadership position in a city with so many black youth,” Eversley told The Undefeated. “I see this as an opportunity. Being visible is important. My position with the Bulls provides resources to help drive change. We all can do better and I intend to do more.”

During seven years with the Raptors, Eversley would be promoted to vice president of scouting and assistant general manager. At one point, Eversley and Masai Ujiri both worked under Colangelo as assistant general managers. “You’re working for your hometown team, the game you love, you got a pretty good position with a growing organization, you’ve got a boss who’s giving you autonomy to grow and he’s giving you a platform to grow,” said Eversley, who lists being part of the drafting of DeMar DeRozan as his greatest accomplishment in Toronto. “It was perfect, it was tailor-made. At the time, we had a little bit of brand building to do with the franchise in the organization. Trying to put Toronto on the NBA map. … “I worked with Chris Bosh, who was an emerging star, he was about to become an All-Star, developed a great relationship and friendship with him, which I still have today. I just learned a bunch of different things.”

“I love his experience at Nike,” Reinsdorf said. “It shows his ability to connect, not only with players but also with their families and support teams. When it comes to working in the NBA, he hasn’t skipped any steps. He methodically worked his way through different organizations gaining tremendous experience.” Karnisovas called Eversley on the night of April 26 to offer him the position. “As he’s saying that, my jaw is dropping and I’m like, ‘This is really freaking happening,’ ” Eversley said. “After eight or nine days of not sleeping, studying, it just became real in that moment. You try and contain your emotions and try to stay cool in the moment.”

The Chicago Bulls have hired Marc Eversley to be the team’s General Manager. In this role, Eversley will report directly to Executive Vice President — Basketball Operations Arturas Karnisovas and primarily be responsible for overseeing the implementation of all elements of the basketball operations process. “I set out to find a General Manager who complemented my vision and values, and who could help implement them at the Bulls in a fresh way. Marc’s background and skills do exactly that,” said Karnisovas. “He has a history of building strong relationships across the board, identifying talent at organizations that have had success during his time there, and the necessary insight for building a network that will be an asset to our program. He’s ready for this next step in his career, and I’m looking forward to working with him to build the Bulls back into a perennial contender.”

The Bulls recently hired Arturas Karnisovas and Marc Eversley to run their front office. Are you familiar with Arturas or Marc, and have you had a chance to talk to either of them yet? Zach LaVine: Yeah, I’ve talked to them both and I’m extremely excited to get to working with them. It’s something that I think we needed – a switch-up so that the Bulls fans can see that we’re looking in the right direction and getting better. Obviously, we all love the work that Gar [Forman] and Pax (John Paxson) have done for us and the city of Chicago. I think the fans sometimes give them a hard time because they want the results here and now, but it’s hard to do that in sports. It really is. They had a really good run at it, and they’re still beloved. Obviously, I’m just excited to get this started and get right into it.

There are candidates on Karnisovas’ list beyond the previously reported names of Matt Lloyd (Magic), Mark Hughes (Clippers) and Marc Eversley (76ers.) In fact, in another sign this is a new era in Bulls basketball, sources said Karnisovas hasn’t ruled out interviewing select player agents. Jerry Reinsdorf historically frowned upon dealing with agents, a stance changed when Michael Reinsdorf interviewed Jazz general manager Justin Zanik, who started as an agent, for the executive vice president of basketball operations role. This is one of Karnisovas’ most critical hires, and there is speculation around the league that he has preferred candidates. You don’t spend time hoping to lead a franchise one day without formulating ideas about how to execute a leadership plan.

Scottie Pippen says he got FIRED from his role with the Chicago Bulls … but don’t feel bad for the guy, ’cause he’s pretty glad to be away from that mess!! The 6-time champ revealed the move on the Thuzio Live & Unfiltered podcast (which was recorded during All-Star Weekend but released Wednesday) … explaining he couldn’t come to an agreement with the Bulls front office prior to the 2019 season, so they canned him. “I got fired this year. I didn’t really want it to be in the public, but I’m no longer employed by the Bulls,” Pippen said in the interview.

Despite speculated interest, the Chicago Bulls have not requested permission from the Miami Heat to contact Vice President of Basketball Development and Analytics Shane Battier, an NBA source confirmed to the Sun Sentinel. Battier’s name had been floated as a possible option for the Bulls’ vacancy at general manager on the staff being formulated by Arturas Karnisovas, who was hired away from the Denver Nuggets last week as Chicago’s executive vice president of basketball operations.

Heat Vice President of Basketball Operations Adam Simon had been among the candidates pursued by the Bulls for the job that went to Karnisovas, with the Heat last week issuing a statement about retaining Simon, “He loves it here and we love having him.” Battier is in the midst of his third season with the Heat under his present title, joining Pat Riley’s Heat front office on Feb. 16, 2017, following a career that saw him share in Heat championships in 2012 and ’13.

Arturas Karnisovas: Let’s be clear: our ultimate goal is to bring an NBA championship to the city of Chicago. This is what every team in the NBA strives for, day in and day out. In the end, only one team wins each season, and there are countless factors out of one’s control that allow for this goal to be realized. What IS in our control, is our approach and processes behind each decision we make. We will adopt a habit of excellence and as a team, we will expect and demand a lot from each other, in order to rise to the expectations of our fans.

Arturas Karnisovas: My role with the Bulls is an unparalleled professional opportunity; the height of a dream for me. I grew up watching the Chicago Bulls – that team represented American basketball and the NBA to a kid from Lithuania. Like many around the world, I have always held a love for this franchise, which is why it is such an immense privilege to play a role in the revival of this legendary team. Though there will be challenges, these are challenges I feel well prepared for.

During his interview process, Karnisovas conveyed to ownership that he viewed Paxson as a resource, not a roadblock, sources said — though Paxson only will be used as a sounding board. Karnisovas has full authority on all basketball decisions and already has begun building out the organizational infrastructure with the hire of at least one assistant general manager. Karnisovas also has been compiling a list of general manager candidates and plans to begin the interview process — including requesting permission for candidates currently under contract with other teams — in the near future, sources said.
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October 5, 2022 | 9:23 pm EDT Update
“It’s part of the NBA, man,” Rozier told Heavy. “You’ve got to accept things that happen. You’ve got to live with things. Sometimes you’ve got to be without people, and that’s just what it is. It’s part of the NBA. “You know, that’s my brother. We definitely miss him. We’ll let that thing play out. I don’t want to speak too much on that, but we’re waiting for him when things get right. Other than that, we don’t use that as a distraction. We’ve got our team here, and that’s what we’re working with.”