A BUB­BLE THEY CAN CALL THEIR OWN

Bulls are hop­ing Or­lando plan works out; it would pave the way for the ‘Chicago 8’

Chicago Sun-Times - - BULLS BEAT - BY JOE COWLEY jcow­ley@sun­times.com @JCow­leyHoops

The masks are plen­ti­ful. The in-house bar­bers are in place. Six­ers big man Joel Em­biid has his haz­mat suit.

Heat cen­ter Mey­ers Leonard even posted a video of his gam­ing setup in the ho­tel room he’ll be oc­cu­py­ing the next few months — sys­tem, cam­era, mon­i­tor to stream on Twitch, the whole she­bang.

The Or­lando “bub­ble’’ is up and run­ning, and the en­tire NBA is hop­ing it holds.

Put new Bulls ex­ec­u­tive vice pres­i­dent of bas­ket­ball op­er­a­tions Ar­turas Kar­niso­vas near the front of that line.

Kar­niso­vas and the Bulls aren’t in­volved in the 22-team restart “bub­ble’’ but will be di­rectly af­fected by it.

If the Or­lando “bub­ble’’ doesn’t burst by Septem­ber, the left-out or­ga­ni­za­tions could form the “Chicago 8,’’ giv­ing the league a sec­ond work­ing plat­form to sal­vage some­thing mean­ing­ful from the 2019-20 sea­son.

Will it give the Bulls more than the 22 wins they earned from the lost sea­son? No.

But it will give Kar­niso­vas more an­swers. Some­thing he des­per­ately needs.

A source re­it­er­ated Fri­day that coach Jim Boylen re­mains con­fi­dent that he’ll keep his job head­ing into next sea­son and was pleased with the re­la­tion­ship he al­ready has built with Kar­niso­vas and new gen­eral man­ager Marc Ever­s­ley.

The Chicago Sun-Times, how­ever, re­ported last month that Kar­niso­vas and the new-look front of­fice were pre­pared to make a coach­ing change once they went through a “de­lib­er­ate’’ process of get­ting to know Boylen per­son­ally.

Why wait?

First of all, own­er­ship has em­pow­ered Kar­niso­vas to make all bas­ket­ball de­ci­sions, but it also wanted him to at least be fair with Boylen.

“It’s very hard,’’ Kar­niso­vas said last month when asked about the dif­fi­culty in dis­cern­ing if play­ers’ crit­i­cisms of Boylen were le­git or agenda-driven. “Like I said, I need to be there. I need to see it for my­self. As much as I could talk to play­ers and their ex­pe­ri­ences pre­vi­ously, I’m look­ing for­ward and they’re look­ing for­ward to changes and im­prove­ments.

“I think all of them were dis­ap­pointed. None of them was ex­pect­ing to win 22 games.’’

The other rea­son Kar­niso­vas has taken his time is that while the Sun-Times has re­ported that 76ers as­sis­tant coach Ime Udoka is the lead­ing can­di­date to re­place Boylen, Udoka is still in the first year of a three-year deal, and the Bulls aren’t the only team in­ter­ested in him.

The Knicks re­port­edly have been seek­ing per­mis­sion to in­ter­view him, and don’t rule out Udoka stay­ing with the 76ers and get­ting a pro­mo­tion if coach Brett Brown is ousted.

Kar­niso­vas has the most to gain with a “Chicago 8 Bub­ble,’’ but he’s not the only one in the or­ga­ni­za­tion with a lot rid­ing on it:

JIM BOYLEN: Would be­ing able to show his new bosses that he has strong re­la­tion­ships with play­ers, as well as a de­vel­op­men­tal plan, help keep him in his chair? Un­likely, but never say never. Minds seem­ingly are made up, but Boylen would love the op­por­tu­nity to win over the new regime and has a his­tory of build­ing bonds with the higher-ups.

LAURI MARKKANEN: The Bulls would love to sign Markkanen to an ex­ten­sion based on a down year for the 7-footer and an ex­pected hit to the cap with all the money the league is hem­or­rhag­ing. Offer low and hope. The be­lief is Markkanen, how­ever, won’t bite. Hav­ing a bub­ble to show he de­serves more would be ideal for Markkanen, but would he even show up and play if it was vol­un­tary?

COBY WHITE: The rookie fi­nally won the start­ing point-guard spot . . . for one game be­fore the coro­n­avirus shut­down. He needs the bub­ble to show the front of­fice that it need not shop in the point-guard aisle at draft time. ✶

PAUL BEATY/AP

Jim Boylen re­mains con­fi­dent that he’ll be re­tained as coach by the Bulls.

MATT SLOCUM/AP

Coby White could take ad­van­tage of a ‘‘Chicago 8 Bub­ble’’ by con­tin­u­ing to prove that he’s a vi­able point-guard op­tion for the Bulls.

NAM Y. HUH/AP

Bulls for­ward Lauri Markkanen could use an eight­team bub­ble to re­build his rep­u­ta­tion af­ter a down year, but would he even show up and play if it was vol­un­tary?

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