What, him worry? Not Arturas Karnisovas. At least that's what the Bulls new chief basketball executive was saying Tuesday as the Bulls finally began their first training camp since his hiring last spring. Not that the former leading Denver Nuggets executive was predicting anything special, or even the playoffs.
But Karnisovas told reporters on a video conference the vibe at the Advocate Center is encouraging, the talent is better than advertised and the excitement is there to turn the page on a disappointing chapter in franchise history.
"There's no concern," Karnisovas said when asked if he had a principal worry. "I just cannot wait to see them compete and play on the floor. Just to have consistency in terms of practices and players available and then compete in preseason to see what we look like, what our schemes defensively and offensively looks like, how they're going to execute, what our coaches are telling them. I'm looking forward to it and can't predict what's going to happen right now."
The first day of NBA training camp generally sounds like a 30-way tie for the championship. No one certainly was suggesting that after a run of losing seasons in a talent rebuild and a reshaping of the front office and coaching staff. Perhaps next for the roster, though it's more wait, see, watch, see some more, wait and see and like the rest of us look toward next summer.
For both the weather and whether and how much change is necessary for this roster.
Which is why Karnisovas said the Bulls were a cautious free agency participant with only a one-year contract for reserve Garrett Temple, a G-league two-way contract invitation for point guard Devon Dotson and a tryout for onetime Bulls forward Noah Vonleh.
"Probably because we were pretty happy with the roster that we had," Karnisovas said when asked about free agency inertia. "We didn't have a lot of (salary cap) wiggle room to work with. We added players that are versatile. We added some leadership, experience to the roster we already had and that was the mentality. And also preserving cap room for next summer and using this season to look at our roster and evaluate and see what the long term goals will be following this season."
It's been much speculated that a season of analysis for management with development by the coaches is the initial goal of the new management team. It doesn't suggest a big difference from last season other than in head coaching experience and player enhancement, though some luck might help with injuries.
"In this situation, we have a clean slate, a new front office and a new coaching staff to establish themselves," said Karnisovas. "We need to establish consistent work habits, culture and approach inside our building. We are building the program. Cohesion and learning how to win takes time. We will build it the right way; no skipping steps. Continuity is huge in our league, so our main objectives are focused on player development, getting better every day. The only perception we care about is what's in this building. Our confidence level and what we think about ourselves cannot come from social media or what others think about us. It's all about this group on a daily basis and what we think about ourselves, what are our goals. In this consistently changing environment, we are taking it one day at a time.
"I think I mentioned previously (to media in the summer), my impression was (the roster) was better than I thought," Karnisovas said. "The play has been tremendous. Just the attendance of mini-camp (in September) was great because every player was participating. So I think they've been compliant, they've been in the gym every day, they've been working hard in the offseason. So the desire to be ready for the season is huge after nine months of (basketball) being taken away. We have to acknowledge that they have not had true NBA competition for close to nine months. Though they've been committed to staying in shape and working hard in the offseason. This shortened preseason must be factored in with caution as they throttle up to NBA pace and demand. The excitement at the Advocate Center is tangible. What they love is basketball, so they're eager to start. They cannot wait to get to work."
Karnisovas also said he's excited about rookie forward Patrick Williams and free agency addition Temple while hopeful for Vonleh, a much traveled journeyman whom Karnsiovas also had in Denver.
"I think we like our rookies and we like what we've seen so far in individual practices," Karnisovas confirmed. "It's why we brought them in here and why we drafted, so we cannot wait to see them in a team setting. It's going to be a huge learning curve, but we're going to focus on player development and how we can get better every day. I know (Vonleh) from Denver days. I'm very excited to have him here. He's going to compete in training camp. We'll see what happens. Versatility, experience, leadership. Those would be my three things on Garrett."
But Karnisovas also knows the familiar adage.
"It's a result-driven league," Karnisovas agreed. "We'll try to figure out how to win games."