Wendell Carter Jr dunking the ball in a December game against the Washington Wizards.
At 15-17, the Chicago Bulls are fighting for a playoff spot in the Eastern Conference. But that’s not their sole motivation going into Monday night’s matchup against MVP-candidate Nikola Jokic and the Denver Nuggets.
Bulls’ Vice President of Basketball Operations, Arturas Karnisovas, asked the team to win this one for him. You’ll no doubt remember that his last stop prior to Chicago was Denver, where he served as the Nuggets’ General Manager.
Center Wendell Carter Jr told reporters (via NBC Sports) on Monday afternoon that Karnisovas began stressing the upcoming matchup once the Bulls found out their Sunday night game against Toronto was postponed:
He’s definitely excited. Once we figured out our game was canceled in Tampa, he was there in the film session. He told us, ‘Our game is postponed. Now you get some more time to rest. I need y’all to win this game for me.’
Carter told reporters it was the Bulls’ plan to do just that: “We just gotta go out and get the W for him tonight.”
He and the rest of Chicago’s young team feel inclined to do so because of how Karnisovas has approached his first year with the team. He’s earned their respect by not only leading but being present:
He’s always in here when I’m working out, giving me tips on what he thinks I can do better. He’s very hands on, and I can respect that about him.
It doesn’t stop there.
No, it seems that Arturas is seemingly always around the Advocate Center, the Bulls’ practice facility:
In practices, he’s on the sidelines. So right after practice or right before practice, I see players, including myself, talking to him just seeing how he’s feeling. And not necessarily always talking about basketball. Just checking in on one another and things like that. he’s a great people person, and I really appreciate him.
Wendell Carter Jr in particular will have his hands full against Denver, matched up with Nikola Jokic.
But if his response and praise are indicative of how the rest of this roster feels about Arturas, expect the team to come out and play hard for the executive on Monday night. They’re matched up against a tough opponent in his former team the Denver Nuggets but have proven before that they can rise to the occasion when focused.