It sounded like an NBA executive moonlighting as a used car salesman.
Then again, what was Bulls vice president of basketball operations Arturas Karnisovas supposed to say?
He was asked on media day about attempting to sell basically the same roster that fell short of the playoffs last season to a fan base expecting much more from the product, and responded, “I’m optimistic about this group. I believe in this group.’’
“I believe in (coach) Billy (Donovan) improving certain things,’’ Karnisovas continued. “We had goals last year focused on improving our record against good teams, and improving our defense. We accomplished that. We took a step back on offense, and it was actually the details. We scored more points than the year prior, but we were still 24th because everybody else made adjustments. It’s about adjusting from the past year and getting some improvement.’’
All well and good, but in a league where actions speak louder than words that’s where Karnisovas and the Bulls fall short.
They want the fan base to take that leap.
They want the United Center to stay near the top in home attendance.
But a deeper dive shows that ownership and the front office don’t even believe in this roster having postseason staying power.
The Reinsdorfs have had a history of spending – even willing to go over the cap – when the product has hold-the-trophy-up potential. Yet, they’ve spent the last six months bobbing and weaving to make sure they are under the cap tax.
Karnisovas built this roster foundation, and even he is skeptical in investing long-term in it.
DeMar DeRozan could have been extended to a max contract, but Karnisovas is willing to wait it out. Patrick Williams – who was Karnisovas’ first major draft pick when they selected him fourth overall – could have been extended off his rookie deal on Monday, and more waiting it out.
It’s hard to hear the organization praise Williams and his growth potential over and over again, yet when that potential has dollar signs assigned to it even they aren’t willing to put the signature to paper.
Luckily, they don’t have a James Harden situation with either player.
DeRozan is about playing out his deal and then addressing money matters, while Williams is taking the Coby White approach and letting his play show that he deserves a big offer next offseason when he becomes a restricted free agent.
“Obviously I want a big contract,’’ Williams said on Monday. “I think that’s what I’m worth. But whenever it comes, it comes. I’m not 100% going to say this summer or next summer, whatever the case may be. I go out and hoop, try and win games, and whatever comes of that, comes of that.
“My focus right now is try and get this team over that next hump, get myself over the hump. It’s going to be easy for me to just go out and play.’’
If the Bulls want to be a playoff team this season, they’ll need Williams to take that approach, and not just talk about it.
Williams beat out Torrey Craig for a starting spot, but as Donovan said after the preseason wrapped up, the starting lineup is written in pencil, not pen.
That means White will get the start at the point guard spot when the ball tips off against Oklahoma City on Wednesday, and Williams will join in, playing alongside the “Big Three” of Zach LaVine, Nikola Vucevic and DeRozan.
A product the fan base should invest in?
The answer to that is simple: The Bulls want the fans to take that leap of faith. What the fans should be saying back to the organization?