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Nuggets GM Arturas Karnisovas reported early leader for Bulls’ top job

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What do the Bulls want in a new top executive? Near the top of the list: someone who can build an organization that drafts well and develops that talent. That’s why executives from Miami, Utah, and Toronto were high on the wish list.

Enter Nuggets general manager Arturas Karnisovas, who has done exactly those things in Denver. Karnisovas is the early frontrunner, reports Vincent Goodwill of Yahoo Sports.

Multiple sources told Yahoo Sports that Denver Nuggets general manager Arturas Karnisovas is the leader in the clubhouse…

Sources said [team president Michael Reinsdorf] wants someone who has a presence publicly, especially given the reticent nature of Paxson and Forman the last several years. The Bulls have embraced analytics the last few seasons but having someone who can discern how to apply the numbers against other basketball factors is important to Reinsdorf…

“He wants someone who’ll surround himself with smart people, a great talent evaluator. There’s a need to get better in the player development department, too,” a source told Yahoo Sports.

Karnisovas has worked mostly in the background in Denver, with Tim Connelly being the face of the basketball operations. That would be a big change for Karnisovas, but one he may be ready for.

John Paxson is helping Reinsdorf with the search, but Paxson reportedly will take on whatever role is asked — or step aside completely — to make things smooth for whoever takes over the organization.

Bulls’ John Paxson reportedly willing to play small role, or even step aside, for new front office

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It all seems a little too coincidental.

Early reports about a shakeup in the Bulls’ front office had John Paxson, the current vice president of basketball operations, retaining at least some power. There also was a push to help current coach Jim Boylen keep his job.

Then the Raptors’ Bobby Webster, Pacers’ Chad Buchanan, and Heat’s Adam Simon all dropped out of the running for the Bulls job.

Suddenly, there has been a series of reports that Paxson was willing to give up his power and is ready to play whatever role the new GM wants. There was this from K.C. Johnson of NBC Sports Chicago.

But the perception that Paxson will be some hovering presence, going kicking and screaming into the night, is simply wrong. Early this season, Paxson communicated his vision to ownership for a new-look, more modern front office. He initiated some of this need for change.

Michael Reinsdorf likely would have arrived at the same conclusion anyway and has taken the reins on addressing the issue. Well before news broke over All-Star weekend, he began performing due diligence and background on a wide variety of candidates.

Joe Cowley at the Chicago Sun-Times took it a step further.

A source told the Sun-Times on Tuesday that not only is Paxson all for stepping aside from his position and acting more as an adviser to the Reinsdorf family when the front-office restructure is finalized, but would completely step down from the organization if the Reinsdorfs and the new-look executive group deemed it better for the rebuild to continue.

Was the “perception that Paxson will be some hovering presence” just among fans, or did it exist among potential candidates, too? Each of the three candidates that dropped out have positons of some power in quality organizations, each is only going to leave for just the right offer, one with total control of the organization.

It all seems a little too coincidental that they all dropped out and then came the rash of reports about Paxson not wanting to retain power. Whether it was true or not Paxson was always willing to step aside, perception matters.

Chicago did interview Utah’s Justin Zanik, another experienced executive from a stable organization who could be a good fit with the Bulls. The Jazz have set up the kind of strong draft-and-development program (Rudy Gobert, Donovan Mitchell, etc.) that the Bulls should try to emulate. The Bulls are also expected to interview Nuggets’ general manager Arturas Karnisovas and Magic assistant general manager Matt Lloyd.

With no games going on, there is no rush to make a hire by the Bulls, they have plenty of time for due diligence (as do the candidates). Chicago will want its new head man and his front office staff in place before what is likely a compacted draft and free-agency period, whenever that comes.

Report: Bulls to interview Jazz GM Justin Zanik, Raptors and Heat executives less likely

Jazz general manager Justin Zanik
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The Bulls clearly have a type.

In its search for someone to replace John Paxson and Gar Forman in running basketball operations, Chicago has been connected to several executives who hold the No. 2 role in their current front office. Though the list of candidates is a moving target, here’s the latest update:

K.C. Johnson of NBC Sports Chicago:

The Bulls plan to interview Denver Nuggets general manager Arturas Karnisovas and Utah Jazz general manager Justin Zanik to head their basketball operations, sources told NBC Sports Chicago.

It’s looking less likely that the Bulls will interview either Raptors general manager Bobby Webster, who is in line for a new deal in Toronto, or Heat assistant general manager Adam Simon. The latter grew up in Miami and, beyond his strong ties to his hometown, is well respected by Heat president Pat Riley.  Both candidates are expected to be retained by their clubs.

While executive vice president John Paxson is expected to remain in an advisory role, he has made clear to ownership he will play as small or large a roll that the new hire desires. Ownership has conveyed this to potential candidates. In fact, the new hire will be allowed to assemble the front office infrastructure as he sees fit, including, ultimately, a decision on the coaching staff, sources said.

As candidates withdraw from the search, it seems the Bulls are sending a new message about the appeal of the job.

Paxson was reportedly going to retain power in the new setup. Management was reportedly set to implicitly encourage candidates to keep coach Jim Boylen. Both of those would be turnoffs.

Now, Chicago wants to convey that the new hire will have more autonomy.

Top seeds continue to fall while Bucks, Lakers dominate NBA 2K Players Tournament

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We’re through the first round of the NBA 2K Players Tournament — eight players are out, eight remain — and a few trends have emerged.

Starting with: Being the best at basketball does not make you the best at 2K.

This tournament was seeded based on the players’ 2K player rankings, and the top seeds have fallen hard. Sunday, the latest was Utah’s Donovan Mitchell, who was the No. 4 seed overall but fell to No. 13 Rui Hachimura of the Wizards 74-71. Mitchell missed a three — taken by Spencer Dinwiddie — at the buzzer to tie it. But he handled it well.

That means the top seed (Kevin Durant), three seed (Hassan Whiteside), and now four seed have lost. The only top-four seed remaining is Trae Young.

Another trend: Players want the elite teams. In the eight first-round games, the Bucks or Lakers were selected four times each. After that, the Clippers were selected twice (once by Montrezl Harrell on Sunday). Only a couple of players have chosen their own team, and Devin Booker was not about to be one of those.

Here are the first-round results:
• No. 16 Derrick Jones Jr. 78, No. 1 Kevin Durant 62
• No. 10 Deandre Ayton 57, No. 7 Zach LaVine 41
• No. 2 Trae Young 101, No. 15 Harrison Barnes 59
• No. 14 Patrick Beverley 84, No. 3 Hassan Whiteside 54
• No. 8 Montrezl Harrell 71, No. 9 Domantas Sabonis 53
• No. 13 Rui Hachimura 74, No. 4 Donovan Mitchell 71
• No. 5 Devin Booker 85, No. 12 Michael Porter Jr. 75
• No. 6 Andre Drummond 101, No. 11 DeMarcus Cousins 49

Drummond used the Lakers to crush Cousins, but still doesn’t understand the power of Alex Caruso. Boogie tried to explain.

As for insights into actual basketball games, Booker said he would rather go up against the Bucks than the Lakers in a series.

Play in the tournament returns Tuesday night.

Report: Bulls seeking permission to interview Nuggets, Raptors, Pacers executives

Bulls owner Jerry Reinsdorf
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The Bulls are seeking a new lead executive to supplant John Paxson and Gar Forman.

Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN:

K.C. Johnson of NBC Sports Chicago:

Karnisovas (under Tim Connelly with the Nuggets), Bobby Webster (under Masai Ujiri with the Raptors) and Chad Buchanan (under Kevin Pritchard with the Pacers) have appeared successful in their supporting roles. Karnisovas, Webster and Buchanan are perfectly logical candidates to lead a front office. It’s encouraging for Chicago that those three are getting consideration, raising the level of the talent pool.

But this will also be an interview of the Bulls.

How much control will their new top executive get? Paxson will reportedly maintain some power, and COO Michael Reinsdorf isn’t going anywhere. Management will reportedly even ask candidates to keep an open mind on coach Jim Boylen.

How patient will ownership be? After nine straight seasons without a losing record, Chicago is in its third straight miserable season. The Bulls didn’t grasp how far trading Jimmy Butler would set them back, and their rebuild – already longer than expected – isn’t necessarily close to finished. A new general manager will be starting fresh. Yet, Bulls owner Jerry Reinsdorf is already years into his agitation.

How much will the job pay? The Bulls have earned a reputation for cheapness. That’s why it was difficult to buy rumors of Chicago chasing Thunder general manager Sam Presti. And apparently, the Bulls won’t.

Darnell Mayberry of The Athletic: