When rumors first started floating around NBA All-Star Weekend that Bulls’ headman Michael Reinsdorf was in the beginning phases of a front-office shakeup, those rumors were met with skepticism. Many questioned whether the new headman would have enough authority, whether the Reinsdorf family would open the wallet in a serious way, and whether Gar Forman and John Paxson would actually be out of the picture. All of that skepticism is justified after what has transpired over the past two decades in Chicago. But with the league paused due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Bulls have used the opportunity to accelerate their front office overhaul.
During this overhaul, they have also answered questions about the gravity of the overhaul in a resounding way. They’re serious this time.
The makeover began with an impressive candidate list for the Executive Vice President position and ended with an equally impressive hire. Arturas Karnisovias joins the Bulls with a notable resume and favorable reputation. That move alone was nearly enough to prove that the Bulls were taking this reshuffle seriously, but a flurry of activity on Friday afternoon has shown that Karnisovias truly has the power he needs to enact serious change in an organization desperate for it.
Karnisovas and the Bulls have been moving quickly since coming to an agreement with the former Nuggets’ general manager. Reports have emerged from ESPN and local media outlets the Bulls are on the verge of adding Denver’s Pat Connelly and New Orleans’ J.J. Polk in Assistant GM roles.
Connelly has a long background as a scout in the Denver and Phoenix organizations and was in Phoenix when they drafted franchise building blocks in T.J. Warren and Devin Booker. He was also the director of player personnel in Washington when they acquired John Wall and Bradley Beal.
As for Polk, his hiring represents an admission on Karnisovas’ part that he’s not perfect. Polk knows the ins and outs of the NBA salary cap and will work closely with Karnisovas and the rest of the front office on nearly every move. It is a level of self-reflection that has been missing among the higher-ups in the Bulls organization for a long time. Most importantly, what all three hires have incoming is the prestige they bring and the ability to fix the terrible optics that the Bulls have endured over the past few decades.
Both hires come with impressive histories and between the three men, a high price tag. The Reinsdorfs have shown that money is not an issue as they look to build a front office worthy of the legends that hang in the rafters of the United Center. Connelly and Polk will presumably work with Karnisovas as he looks to add his right-hand man in the general manager position, and the reported list of candidates is not any less impressive than the hires that have already been made.
Among the rumored candidates are Carl Booth, Marc Eversley, Mark Hughes, and Matt Lloyd. All four candidates come from organizations with the sorts of cultures that the Bulls are looking to emulate with this overhaul. ESPN reports that interviews for the open GM spot will start in “short order” and that the Bulls have already asked for permission to interview at least two of the candidates on that list.
Joe Cowley reports that the front office isn’t the only spot where impressive names are being linked to the Bulls. After dealing with a string of yes-man hires that have been unqualified and each seemingly worse than the next since Tom Thibodeau was fired, there is reportedly significant smoke surrounding the Bulls and Adrian Griffin. Griffin would represent a serious hire for the Bulls coaching job.
Griffin is an assistant for the Toronto Raptors, and one that league sources have said would be “overqualified” for most coaching jobs in the league. Griffin would be the kind of hire that Thibodeau was when the Bulls tabbed him from the Celtics in 2010. It would certainly be a far cry from the types of hires the team has made since Thibs’ departure.
The reshuffling on top won’t mean much if they can’t produce results on the court, however. But so far in every step of this process, the Bulls have made the right moves. For the Bulls, that is a very big deal. The hires to date give hope that they can fix the issues on the court left for them by their predecessors. The Friday news drop makes it very clear that Karnisovas is fully in charge and will not be held up by his predecessors as many had feared.
Karnisovas represents a new era for the Bulls, and the days following his hire have been nothing but positive. It may finally be time to run with the Bulls again.