Nick Knacks

Column: How A Late-Night Tweet Re-Energized the Bulls Fan Base

Kyle Brown | The PhoenixThe NBA began its strike in support of the Black Lives Matter movement on Aug. 26.

At about 11:30 p.m. April 8, I — like most normal people — was lying in bed, about to fall asleep before midnight for the first time since God knows when.

I was just finishing a final scroll through Snapchat when I got an alert from ESPN, which was weird considering the hour. Shortly thereafter, I got another one from Bleacher Report.

Adrian Wojnarowski, arguably the best NBA reporter in the business, had tweeted the Bulls were hiring Denver Nuggets general manager Arturas Karnisovas as their new head of basketball operations. They finally did the damn thing. After a tumultuous decade-or-so in charge, the two-headed monster of John Paxson and Gar Forman — the now-former executive vice president and general manager, respectively — are all but officially gone.

Finally. Some good sports news.

We’re coming up on a month since sports shut down due to the COVID-19 pandemic. When the NBA season was suspended, the Bulls were a punchline on local sports radio. Who am I kidding? They have been even during the suspension. Between “GarPax” — as Forman and Paxson have been dubbed — and their oh-so-popular coach Jim Boylen, the Bulls haven’t given fans a lot to cheer about in recent years. If you know me, odds are you’ve heard me whine and complain about them quite a bit.

A late-night “Woj Bomb” changed the whole narrative.

Twitter lit up with celebratory tweets since “GarPax” is finally done running the show. Granted, Wojnarowski tweeted the Bulls were looking for a new head of basketball operations last week, but the news that they’d settled on their guy made it seem more real.

This isn’t change for the sake of change. The franchise had been on a downward spiral ever since Derrick Rose’s knee injury in the 2012 playoffs — something Paxson has been pointing to as a pivotal moment ever since. Seriously, he’s still talking about it some eight years later.

Karnisovas’ hiring doesn’t erase the heartbreak from seeing D-Rose go down or how crazy the last few years have been, but it’s a good start.

The search wasn’t perfect, though. The Bulls didn’t interview any minorities, although reports have said they tried to interview a couple potential candidates, but were denied permission. They were also turned down in some way by some other top choices, including by one executive I picked as my favorite.

But it sounds like Chief Operating Officer Michael Reinsdorf, whose father, Jerry, owns the team, is finally getting in position to put the Bulls back on the map. 

Since their sixth title in 1998, the Bulls have only reached the Eastern Conference Finals once. To give you an idea of how long that’s been, I was born in July 1998 — one month after that last title.

The Bulls were on top of the world back then and had the greatest player of all time in Michael Jordan to show it. Since then, not so much.

Could Karnisovas get them back to that mountaintop? It sure sounds like it. He needs to hire a strong general manager, for starters. After that, he needs to modernize the front office because the Bulls are still operating like it’s 2013. Then, it might not hurt to bring in a new coaching staff.

Actually, I take that back. Rip the band-aid off and bring in a new coaching staff. Hey, Tom Thibodeau had a good run for the Bulls during the D-Rose era. What’s he up to these days?

Those teams in the early 2010s with Thibodeau coaching and D-Rose running the show were my glory days as a young Bulls fan. But NBC Sports Chicago has been airing 1995-96 Bulls games in place of live sports. That team went 72-10 — which stood as the best record of all time until 2016. It’s brought back all kinds of nostalgia around my house because my parents remember those six titles like they happened yesterday. It also put into perspective just how bad things have been.

Finally, things are looking up.

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