HomeNBABulls quiet at trade deadline for 3rd straight year

Bulls quiet at trade deadline for 3rd straight year

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The Chicago Bulls did not make a move ahead of Thursday’s NBA trade deadline, the third consecutive year the team has stood pat at the deadline.

Bulls Vice President Arturas Karnisovas reiterated several times during a video call with reporters shortly after the deadline that he was happy with the way the team was playing recently and his intentions were for the team to “remain competitive” despite the team entering Thursday sitting in ninth place in the Eastern Conference with a record of 24-27.

“We would take a step back, which we don’t want,” Karnisovas said. “We want to say competitive. We have an obligation to this city to stay competitive and compete for the playoffs.”

After missing the playoffs last season, the Bulls are once again competing for a spot in the play-in tournament, trailing the Pacers by 4.5 games for the No. 6 seed. Yet, Karnisovas pointed to the teams “bunched up” in the middle of the conference, nearly all of whom who made a trade before Thursday, with aspirations of moving up in the standings.

“It’s a result driven business and I get it,” he said. “I’ll take responsibility for failures. But at this point it’s very early to say what’s success, what’s not success. We have 30 games to go. We’ll see what this team can do.”

Bulls guard Zach LaVine had been one of the most talked about names all season leading up to the trade when in November he expressed his frustration with the team’s losing record and did not answer questions earlier this season about whether he wanted to be traded. Yet, LaVine was limited to 25 games this season because of injuries and underwent foot surgery on Thursday, according to Karnisovas, which begins LaVine’s four-to-six month recovery timeline.

Karnisovas added he has a great relationship with LaVine and he did not have any concerns going forward with LaVine remaining in the organization.

“We are better with Zach on the team,” Karnisovas said.

The Bulls did hold exploratory calls with teams leading up to the deadline on a few other players, including Andre Drummond and Alex Caruso, sources told ESPN, though Chicago remained reluctant to move Caruso in its desire to push for a playoff spot. The Bulls prioritized getting players in return instead of draft capital.

Chicago also held on to forward DeMar DeRozan, who can become an unrestricted free agent this summer. It mirrored the way the Bulls never seriously engaged with the idea of moving veteran Nikola Vucevic at the deadline last year despite an expiring contract and gave him a new three-year extension in the offseason. On Thursday, Karnisovas signaled his intentions to follow a similar path, expressing a desire to re-sign DeRozan, who turns 35 in August.

“I love DeMar,” Karnsiovas said. “He’s huge for this team, for the city, for the organization. He’s been great for our young guys, has been our closer. I think it’s wonderful for this team. I think when the time comes, we have a chance to keep him.”

Karnisovas began his stint as an executive in Chicago by aggressively remaking the roster, keeping only Zach LaVine and Coby White from the team he inherited in April 2020. However, the Bulls have made only one trade since August 2021 – acquiring the draft rights to select Julian Phillips in the second round of last year’s draft.

“What we did in 2021, the summer when we turned our roster around, I think we showed we can be aggressive,” Karnisovas said.

“I’m always going to look at how to improve the team. For now, what makes us more competitive and for the future. We didn’t have those options available.”

Karnisovas stated that he has the green light from ownership to enter a full rebuild if he wanted, but he continues to double down on his faith in the core of LaVine, DeRozan and Vucevic. In the three years following the Bulls have been to one playoff series and won one playoff game in three seasons. And furthermore, since Lonzo Ball – who Karnsiovas said “hopefully in a perfect world” will be ready to play next season – got injured in Jan. 2022, the Bulls are 84-93 in the regular season.

“A shakeup doesn’t guarantee your success,” Karnisovas said. “Words like rebuild and all this stuff is thrown around, I think this group gives you the best chance to compete.”

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