Goodbye GarPax, hello Arturas Karnisovas

The Bulls are hiring the Nuggets GM to "reshape" their front office. Let's get to know him.

Good morning, frents

It took awhile, but GarPax is gone.

It is a good morning, indeed.

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A leader from Lithuania

The future of the Bulls is coming into focus.

Arturas Karnisovas is set to become the Bulls’ new executive vice president of basketball operations, ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski reported late Wednesday night. The two sides were finalizing a deal after a day in which Karnisovas went through two lengthy interviews, including one session with Bulls chairman Jerry Reinsdorf.

So John Paxson and Gar Forman are out, Karnisovas is in. He won’t be the only new face walking into the United Center, though. Woj reported that Karnisovas will be in charge of bringing in a new GM and “reshaping” the Bulls front office, which presumably means bringing it into the third decade of the 21st century.

Those of you who aren’t shoulder-deep into NBA Twitter might need an introduction to Karnisovas, though, so here’s a quick primer.

Who is Arturas Karnisovas?

Karnisovas is one of the four names that Bulls sources said were high on their wish list and the only one who didn’t quickly eliminate himself. He’ll turn 49 years old on April 27 and was born in Lithuania. He’s been widely praised as someone who is a good communicator and a wide network because of his experience in international scouting. He is now the Bulls’ first new VP in 17 years.

What’s his resume?

Karnisovas has been with the Nuggets since the 2013-2014 season when he became the team’s assistant GM after five years as an international scout for Daryl Morey and the Houston Rockets. He’s long been a name that pops up for vacant front office jobs and it was his candidacy for the open Bucks job in 2017 that prompted Denver to bump him up to the GM gig. Under his watch, the Nuggets have become one of the best teams in the competitive Western Conference.

Does he have any ties to the Bulls organization?

Somehow … no!

Well, there was that time he helped trade Doug McDermott to the Bulls on Draft Day 2014 in exchange for Jusuf Nurkic and Gary Harris. But most fans of the Bulls have tried to block that fleecing out, so we won’t count it.

Nurkic, though, recently gave his endorsement to Karnisovas after Yahoo Sports’ Vince Goodwill reported he was speaking with the Bulls.

What were his playing days like?

The 6-foot-8 Karnisovas has an interesting story. He played for Seton Hall from 1990-94, becoming the first Soviet-born player to compete for an American college after Sarunas Marciulionis recommended him to PJ Carlesimo. He was a member of those memorable Lithuania national teams at the 1992 and 1996 Olympics — I still need one of those Grateful Dead shirts, by the way — and had a successful career in European leagues.

After retiring, he returned to the United States in 2003 to work for the NBA’s league office and has been climbing the ranks ever since. Not bad for a guy who arrived in America not knowing more than a few words of English.

Does he own the hardest-to-spell name in Chicago sports?

Maybe at first, but I’ll always have to look up the proper spelling for Ryan Arcidiacono or Slater Koekkoek. Karnisovas is the type of eastern European name we’re usually fine with around these parts. Hearing his name mispronounced by callers on Chicago sports radio might be another matter, though. (“Dis Casanova guy know what he’s doing?”)

Sounds good. What’s his first move?

Getting his GM in place and evaluating the salvageable pieces of this latest rebuild should be at the top of his list. (I’m interested to see the conclusion he comes to on Lauri Markkanen.) After that’s done, he’ll likely look toward getting a new coach more in tune with today’s NBA.

After almost two decades under the reign of GarPax, there is plenty of work to be done. Hopefully the Bulls have found the right guy to pull the franchise out of the hole that’s been dug.

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Breaking T has a great selection of Chicago basketball shirts, all of which become instantly more attractive if the franchise starts to turn around.

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It was 27 years ago today that Bo Jackson returned to Major League Baseball from the 18-month rehab of his new left hip. You know what happened next.

But it’s always worth another watch:

Have a link to share on Midway Minute? Email me!

• I wish we were seeing them out on the field, but it was good to see the faces of these Cubs thanking essential workers while staying home. (Twitter)

• I’ve stayed away from linking hard news about our crisis, but this was fascinating: How the CDC traced Chicago’s coronavirus outbreak to just *two* family gatherings. (Washington Post)

The rise and fall of Lakeview’s Punkin’ Donuts. (Chicago Reader)

Bulls collectible prices are soaring because of “The Last Dance.” (Tribune)

Jon Greenberg on the great La Scarola and how Armando Vasquez is trying to weather the lockdown. (The Athletic)

Both the ‘85 Bears and ‘96 Bulls were crowned the best teams ever in their respective sport. (Yahoo Sports)

• Fun fact: Both of Jim Abbott’s two career hits came against the Cubs. (Bleacher Nation)

• Finally, I got a little creative during yesterday’s home learning recess and put highlights of my daughters playing Fisher-Price basketball to Roundball Rock.

Yes, a total #girldad move, but it helped cross another day off the calendar

Hope you’re finding your own ways out there to help pass the days. Thank you for spending at least a part of them with me — and thank you for being a #frentofthenewsletter.