Just over two months after "The Last Dance" concluded its five-week hold on a sporting society, the NBA restarted Thursday night, beginning its tenuous march to crowning a 2019-20 champion.
As the Lakers and Clippers engaged in what all hope is a preview of the Western Conference finals, the game brought to mind some of the epic rivalries that played out as "The Last Dance" unspooled. From the Pistons to the Knicks to the Pacers to the Jazz, the Bulls' six championship seasons featured plenty of foils.
Twenty-two years have passed since the Bulls' dynasty ended. But watching the NBA resume without the Bulls being a part of it underscored just as large a gulf between what is and what has been.
As a fan of those Michael Jordan-led teams, Arturas Karnisovas immediately tackled this topic during his introductory news conference upon his April hiring as the Bulls' executive vice president of basketball operations.
"Our ultimate goal is clearly to bring an NBA championship to the city of Chicago," Karnisovas said then. "All we can control is our approach and the process behind every decision. A firm foundation is absolutely vital, I'll build that here in Chicago. No skipping steps. There is a systematic approach to success that will be the product of focus and intention, hard work and diligence. We will strive for constant improvement.
"Chicago is a great sports town with a long, robust sports history. The city is made up of very passionate fans. Earning the enthusiasm and excitement back from the fans is both a challenge and something I very much look forward to. These fans deserve a team that they can be proud of, and my objective is to get us back to relevancy."
Indeed, sitting at home as one of the eight teams not inside the NBA's Disney World campus is the definition of irrelevance. There's plenty of work to do.
The Bulls, like the other teams left out of the party, remain hopeful that plans are soon finalized to allow formal group activities for the "Delete 8." Talks between the league and players association are centered more now on voluntary group workouts, with perhaps some regional scrimmages against other teams, rather than a second "bubble" scenario.
Karnisovas and new general manager Marc Eversley will take what they can get as they work to try and create a foundation for sustained success. Strong buy-in for voluntary, individual workouts at the Advocate Center is one thing. The ability to hold team practices and scrimmages is another.
In some ways, this offseason has resembled a normal one for a non-playoff team. Karnisovas, Eversley, and the front office and coaching staffs have held plenty of meetings. Draft and free agency preparation has hummed along.
But it's obviously totally different. For starters, neither new executive could even come to Chicago for months after getting hired because of the global pandemic. Then, their process of implementing their own philosophies - which are heavy on player development - while analyzing the current state of the franchise added another new wrinkle.
For just the third time in 35 years, it's a new managerial regime in Chicago.
"I will cultivate a selfless attitude with the players and there's not going to be any excuses," Karnisovas said in early June, when it became official the Bulls wouldn't be part of the league's restart. "The youth, the injuries, all that stuff is not going to be an excuse moving forward. Because this group is too talented not to perform better."
There was NBA basketball Thursday night. It felt good, even if it felt weird for the Bulls to be one of eight teams not invited to the party.
What Bulls being left out of historic NBA restart means for new front office originally appeared on NBC Sports Chicago