BROOKLYN – Thursday was arguably one of the more difficult days of the three-year tenure of Arturas Karnisovas and Marc Eversley in Chicago.
Early in the day, the Bulls failed to get a deal done in order to either improve the current team or perhaps set a different course ahead of the 2 p.m. central time NBA trade deadline. It was surprising to many since the team has been up and down all season and under .500 since early November.
Then they took the floor against a Nets team that traded both Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving before the deadline and were once again overwhelmed in the fourth quarter. Outscored 37-21 in the final 12 minutes, the Bulls lost to Brooklyn 116-105 to drop to 26-29 on the season.
A healthy amount of positive vibes that were in place for the team a year ago has now flipped to frustration as the Bulls sit in the middle of the pack in the Eastern Conference. Right now they’re in ninth, which would put them in the NBA Playoffs play-in tournament.
Naturally, the biggest question for Karnisovas in his post-trade deadline news conference was why no moves were made.
“I can start by saying that we were pretty active at the trade deadline, it just didn’t seem like there were deals for us to make to improve this group, and at the end of the day, we decided to go with this group for the next 28 games,” said Karnisovas. “I just think that this group showed some resiliency, improvement this year because we kinda flipped the script from last year, beating bad teams, losing to good teams, this year winning against good teams and losing to below .500 teams, staying in a lot of games.
“I’m like the fan base, hate to lose in a lot of those close games, but a lot of those games we were in it. It’s just disappointing to see that our record doesn’t show that we’ve improved in a lot of those games. It’s just disappointing that we lose at the end. After a busy couple of days, I think we came to the conclusion that this was the best group for us to give us the best chance to win.”
So where do the Bulls go from here?
They’ll have essentially the same group moving forward since Lonzo Ball’s chances of a return remain shaky as he continues to rehab from two left knee surgeries the last year. Karnisovas said that he’s making “small improvements” with more of an update expected after the All-Star break as he looks to return to the court for the first time since January 2022.
For Karnisovas and general manager Marc Eversley, it’s a chance to see what this core that was assembled in 2021 might have in them as the team looks to end a two-decade championship drought.
“The next stage for us, now that we’ve passed the trade deadline, is to evaluate this group the next 28 games,” said Karnisovas. “Like I said, mediocrity and average is not OK with us. But the next step is what’s gonna happen for the rest of the season and then how we can address in the draft and free agency, the shortcomings.”
It was something he couldn’t address in time to give this team a boost for the 2022-2023 season.