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Karnisovas defends Bulls' quiet deadline: We showed we can compete

Michael Reaves / Getty Images Sport / Getty

For a third consecutive season, the Chicago Bulls refrained from making a trade on deadline day.

But that was by design, says executive vice president of basketball operations Arturas Karnisovas.

"Since I came here to Chicago, I wanted to have a competitive team," Karnisovas said after Thursday's deadline, according to NBC Sports' K.C. Johnson. "We came up with a formula in 2021. We had somewhat of a success. We took obviously a step back with some injuries. But my objective doesn't change: I would like to compete with the best teams.

"This particular team showed they can compete with the best. And that’s what I'm excited about with 30 games to go."

While Chicago does boast wins this season against some of the league's top sides - including the Milwaukee Bucks, Minnesota Timberwolves, and Philadelphia 76ers, winning the season series against the latter 2-1 - they haven't had much overall success. At 25-27, the Bulls look like they'll need the play-in tournament to make the playoffs again, and they haven't been better than their current position of ninth since being tied for eighth at 2-4 with several teams just over a week into the campaign.

And despite a handful of wins against some of the best teams, Chicago is still only 9-21 this year against clubs with at least a .500 winning percentage, the worst of its kind (.423) of any top-10 side in the conference.

Under Karnisovas, Chicago has won just a single playoff contest. In his tenure - he joined the Bulls in April 2020 after nearly a decade with the Denver Nuggets - the organization's also been ostensibly averse to trading away players. The last player they shipped out was Lauri Markkanen, who was moved in an August 2021 three-team deal with the Cleveland Cavaliers and Portland Trail Blazers.

Complicating matters is the status of Zach LaVine, who underwent season-ending foot surgery on Thursday. Though Chicago has gone 15-12 without LaVine in 2023-24, his injury essentially prevented the team from exploring a full teardown, as the 28-year-old likely would have commanded a significant return after being heavily involved in trade rumors.

Karnisovas, though, doesn't believe selling off the squad's top players is the right avenue for the franchise.

"I think a shakeup doesn’t guarantee you success," he said. "The names, like rebuild and all this stuff, is thrown around. This group gives you the best chance to compete. And our younger players are developing and taking a step forward.

"I think when we came here, the Bulls missed the playoffs (four) years in a row. I think with those thoughts in mind, we all have those (rebuilding) conversations internally. But at the end of the day, our group believes in this team."

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