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Chicago Bulls trade deadline at turning point… again

Chicago Bulls executive vice president of basketball operations Artūras Karnišovas may be the most patient man in local sports since former Cubs owner Philip K. Wrigley, who thought daily baseball could go on forever.

Karnišovas has waited for his core to prove itself through two straight NBA trade deadlines and offseasons, and he could once again triple-double nothing on Thursday.

This is the definition of insanity, but with no pressure from bosses Jerry Reinsdorf and Michael Reinsdorf to blow it up and try something new, Karnišovas looks set to cross his fingers and hope for the best once again.

Maybe the Bulls can still make the play-ins like last year and the management can overcome this by being a brave team. Zach LaVine’s loss?

We can only hope this isn’t a recurring bad dream.

Tuesday’s 129-123 overtime victory over the Minnesota Timberwolves might have been the last we saw of some of the Bulls’ stars, but there was no widespread melancholy among fans at the United Center who may or may not have been aware they might be that way. We bid farewell to DeMar DeRozan or Alex Caruso.

Coach Billy Donovan said before Tuesday’s game that all the players understand the situation as the trade deadline approaches. Anything can happen, but most will likely be in Memphis when the 2pm CST deadline rolls around on Thursday.

He said no one in the front office asked Donovan for his opinion on any potential players to be dealt. This is not a recording.

Losing LaVine for the rest of the season to right foot surgery has increased the difficulty of the Bulls getting through the regular season as a non-play-in team, so it may be easier to sign someone like DeRozan or Caruso. Management’s admission that this season is a lost cause and it’s time to move on.

Does the LaVine news change the way the Bulls operate at the deadline?

“I didn’t get anything from Artūras and/or (general manager Marc Eversley) like, ‘Hey, we’ve been going down this path and now we have a path (to fix) to get here.’ Donovan said. “At least in my meetings with them, nothing like this happened. I’m sure they should look into that, right? Because the hope was that the second time he went out with that foot (injury) he would come back and come back. That’s what everyone expected.”

The chances of dealing LaVine seemed slim to none even before his latest injury, which put the spotlight on DeRozan, Caruso and backup center Andre Drummond; He was the person most likely to leave the team.

Nothing against Drummond, a fighter who does his job without complaint and with little interest, but few in Chicago would lament his departure if it happens. Many people think he is lucky.

The same could not be said for DeRozan, the team’s leader and the man most responsible for the team’s revival in the 2021-22 season. Or Caruso, the fan favorite who refuses to accept that flailing his body for loose balls could shorten his NBA career. It will be sad for most of the fans if they leave.

Both DeRozan and Caruso hark back to the pre-Jordan Bulls era of the 1970s, when the team was defined by its blue-collar mentality and players like Jerry Sloan and Norm Van Lier were beloved no matter how far the team advanced in the postseason. The most important thing was effort, and there was no doubt when you walked into the old Chicago Stadium that the Bulls were coming to play.

Of course, Michael Jordan changed everything, and these days the United Center is packed with fans not just to watch games but for entertainment as well.

Donovan said he has a personal commitment to his players: “It’s so selfless, I love being around those guys all the time.” He added that if something were to happen at the deadline, he would be “disappointed” to see one of his men go.

“But the front office is always asking, ‘How do we make our team better?’ “I know you will research the issue. How can we improve our team?” he said.

That’s easy to say, but there’s nothing to suggest the Bulls have done anything to make the team better since losing Lonzo Ball a month before the 2021-22 trade deadline; other than acquiring Patrick Beverley following the veteran guard’s release last February. Orlando Magic following a trade from the Los Angeles Lakers. Beverley provided a spark at the end of the season. but that wasn’t enough to get them into the play-offs.

Karnišovas is perhaps the least accessible sports executive in Chicago, so it’s hard to get into his head. He usually speaks to the media before the season, after the trade deadline and in the postseason, so we can expect him to at least address the direction of the team on Thursday or in the coming days.

Following the Bulls’ loss to the Milwaukee Bucks in the first round of the 2022 playoffs, he was asked how far they are from being a true title contender.

“I understand that this squad is only a year old,” Karnišovas replied. “In addition to their age, I think playing together for longer will help them gain familiarity and feel more comfortable in difficult situations.”

Now the cast has been going for three years… and counting. Everyone knows each other and is comfortable in difficult situations, but the results haven’t changed much.

Karnišovas’ patience may run out, but who knows?

The Cubs finally got their lights; however, this occurred 11 years after Wrigley’s death and under a new owner.

Bulls fans won’t have to wait that long for change, right?

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