CHICAGO (AP) — Arturas Karnisovas just about slammed the door on a total teardown for the Chicago Bulls following a disappointing season.
The team’s top basketball executive didn’t completely rule out anything. But he made it clear a complete overhaul is unlikely.
“That’s been thrown around all this season,” he said Saturday. “Blow up, rebuild. It’s not on our minds.”
The Bulls have some big issues to address after finishing 10th in the Eastern Conference and missing the playoffs. They went 40-42 and won a play-in game at Toronto before getting knocked out at Miami on Friday.
For a team that came in thinking it was poised to make a jump in the East and a run in the playoffs, the season was a big letdown.
The Bulls were hit by injuries, with point guard Lonzo Ball missing the season because of a knee injury, and never really developed the rhythm they anticipated. It didn’t help that Zach LaVine was slowed by a knee issue early on and that DeMar DeRozan dealt with a quad problem over the second half.
The Bulls really haven’t been whole since the first half of the 2021-22 season, when they were among the top teams in the Eastern Conference. But even if they had all their key players, whether a team with a “big three” of LaVine, DeRozan and Nikola Vucevic can overtake teams like Milwaukee, Boston and Philadelphia is another issue.
Karnisovas talked about building around the core and improving the team’s 3-point shooting. But to do that could mean going into luxury-tax territory.
Vucevic is due to become an unrestricted free agent, and guard Coby White is set to be a restricted free agent. Throw in the uncertainty over Ball after he missed the season because of his left knee injury, and the team’s top basketball executive has a big job ahead of him.
“My responsibility is to look at everything,” said Karnisovas, Chicago’s executive vice president of basketball operations. “At the end of the day, to be a .500 team is not good enough. It’s not good enough for this organization. It’s not good enough for the fan base. They deserve better. So I’m going to have to look at everything — how I can help this group to do better. We have to move forward. But I’ll be open to do anything.”
Vucevic said he’d like to remain in Chicago, though he plans to explore the market. The two-time All-Star averaged 17.6 points and 11 rebounds in his second full season with the Bulls.
“The Bulls will have priority,” he said. “I would like to stay here. But that’s on the front office to decide and work with my agent on the contract part.”
Karnisovas said he expects Ball to play again. He’s just not sure when.
“I have confidence that he’s going to come back. In terms of timeline, I don’t have that timeline right now,” Karnisovas said.
Ball hasn’t played since Jan. 14, 2022. He had a cartilage transplant in March, his third operation on the knee in a little more than a year.
Whether he remains with the Bulls or signs elsewhere, White said he would like to be a starter. He made two starts this season.
“I think it definitely could be a conversation and figure things out from there,” White said.
The Bulls were last in the NBA in 3-pointers made and attempted.
With one year left on his three-year, $85 million contract, DeRozan could be in line for an extension.
“I’m never worried about that,” he said. “Never mention it, never talk about it. I even hate hearing it at time. I let my job, everything I do, take care of itself.”