CHICAGO -- The Chicago Bulls finished 40-42 and in 10th place in the Eastern Conference this season, but vice president Arturas Karnisovas pointed to the team's 14-9 finish following the All-Star break as evidence the club is on the right path.
Speaking at his end-of-season press conference less than 24 hours after Chicago's 102-91 loss to the Miami Heat in the play-in tournament, Karnisovas reiterated his confidence in the core of the team, saying he wants to bring back its key free agents and that the Bulls were not heading for a rebuild this offseason.
"That's been thrown around all this season," Karnisovas said. "Blow up, rebuild. It's not on our minds.
"We changed our minds in the 2021 season to focus on winning, and try to build a sustainable program here -- I think that's where we're focused right now. How we can help this group and how we can improve from this year."
While Karnisovas emphasized that a .500 team was "not good enough" and that he would explore all options to improve the team during the offseason, he also expressed interest in bringing back his entire roster.
Coby White is on the last year of his rookie deal and can become a restricted free agent during the summer, but Karnisovas said he "absolutely" wants to re-sign him this season.
Nikola Vucevic will be an unrestricted free agent this summer, but Karnisovas pointed to his availability for all 82 games when he called him a huge part of the team that he also hopes to bring back.
Vucevic also expressed his interest in returning to Chicago next season, saying that while he will test the market, he has enjoyed his 2½ seasons with the Bulls.
"The Bulls will have priority," Vucevic said Saturday. "I'd like to stay here. But that's on the front office to decide and work with my agent."
The Bulls ranked first in defensive efficiency following the All-Star break and finished fifth in that category over the entire season. After adding Patrick Beverley on the buyout market and moving Alex Caruso to the starting lineup, the five-man unit with them surrounding Vucevic, Zach LaVine and DeMar DeRozan outscored opponents by 69 points.
However, the Bulls scuffled on offense all season, finishing 24th in offensive efficiency despite strong and healthy seasons from DeRozan, LaVine and Vucevic. Chicago also ranked last in both 3-point field goal makes and attempts this season, which Karnisovas said would be a priority this summer.
"My responsibility is to look at everything," Karnisovas said. "At the end of the day, to be a .500 team is not good enough. It's not good enough for this organization, it's not good enough for the fan base. They deserve better. So, I'm going to have to look at everything. How I can help this group to do better. We have to move forward. I'll be open to anything."
Karnisovas did not have any clarity on the status of guard Lonzo Ball, who missed the entire 2022-23 season and last appeared in a game Jan. 14, 2022. He has undergone three surgeries on his left knee since his last game, the latest of which was a cartilage transplant surgery in March.
Karnisovas said he still did not have a timeline for Ball's return. He also declined to comment whether the team would petition the NBA for salary relief on the remaining $43 million owed to Ball if the league determines Ball's injury is career-ending.
"I have confidence that he's going to come back," Karnisovas said. "In terms of timeline, I don't have that timeline right now because he just had his procedure."