CHICAGO – One of the biggest questions that fans have been asking since the beginning of the 2021-2022 season is how far up the ranks in the NBA can the core of the team constructed last summer take the Bulls.
After a full season of the play that featured both ups and downs over the course of six months, that question probably hasn’t been answered fully.
Certainly, the team will need to make moves in order to bolster the roster after seeing what they did against the elite squads in the NBA this past season. That includes the first round playoff series against the Bucks, where the Bulls lost three-straight games by margins of 30, 24, and 16 as they were eliminated in five games.
Complicating that, however, is the fact that the core of the team didn’t play together very much during a season that featured a number of injuries. Patrick Williams was lost for five months after wrist surgery, Lonzo Ball the entire second half of the season after knee surgery, while Zach LaVine was in and out of the lineup at times with knee trouble.
Alex Caruso, who floated between the starting lineup and a bench role, also dealt with a long absence due to a broken wrist suffered in January.
It made for a trying year for the Bulls and a hard one for executive vice president Arturas Karnisovas to evaluate as the team heads toward the postseason after their quick playoff elimination.
“It’s very difficult to pinpoint when you have 29 different lineups during the season,” said Karnisovas. “Remembering what we had to go through in December and January. Pretty much coming to the Advocate Center and not even knowing what the lineup’s going to look like. Somebody’s COVID positive, somebody just tweaked a knee, somebody’s out.
“So for Billy (Donovan) and his staff and what they had to deal with; our performance staff was wonderful, too This gym was just every day busy with our player development guys trying to keep guys that low-minute run, to keep those guys in shape. Our performance staff working with the guys that are working back from injuries. So it’s been a very challenging year.”
Maybe that’s why Karnisovas is hoping for some continuity for the group as they look ahead to the 2022-2023 season, with time still needed to evaluate just what the core of the team can do.
“I hope for continuity,” said the executive vice president. “Because we’re constantly competing against teams that have been together for three, four, and five years. Results come, obviously, when you keep the same group longer. We’ll figure it out, what additions we need. Is that shooting? Is that defense? Is that size? Athleticism?
“We’re gonna sit down and figure it out with the group.”
That will include head coach Billy Donovan, who like Karnisovas wonders what the core group might do if healthy.
“You sit there and you say saying ‘We need this, we need this, we need that,’ but don’t really have a chance to sit down and talk about maybe what the team would have looked like had we been whole and guys would have been together,” said Donovan. “So I look forward to doing that with Arturas and his staff and they’ll be a time for that, and we’ll all put our heads together and figure that out.”
So that the team can find a way to take their next step towards a championship.