By Joshua M Hicks (@jhicks042)
The Chicago Bulls have given fans a new era of hope with a complete revamp of the franchise’s front office.
After a decade-plus of the now infamous “GarPax” tandem, any true influence held by either Gar Foreman or John Paxson in regards to the Bulls is no more now as the team is going forward with new VP of Basketball Operations Arturas Karnisovas and the recently announced new general manager Marc Eversley, the first Black GM in franchise history.
Diverse leadership sings from these two hires, both of which provide the Bulls with an added amount of respect throughout the league while filling specific voids from the “GarPax” era in the areas of player development and player relationships.
As the franchise slogged through the final days of GarPax, the Bulls lacked direction in spite of collecting a core of rising stars in Coby White, Lauri Markkanen and Zach LaVine, a trio that has yet to establish anyone amongst itself as a potential top-tier superstar that the team needs to ride back to relevancy. In this new era of development, however, White, Markkanen and LaVine could develop into big-time role players, which may be an ideal situation for each player given their previous experience.
Karnisovas has a well-developed eye for talent, one honed during terms as Director of Global Scouting and overall Director of Scouting with the Houston Rockets as well as General Manager of the Denver Nuggets.
He’s played huge roles Denver’s latest turnaround, which came about in large part by drafting the likes of Nikola Jokic, Michael Porter Jr. and Jamal Murray as cornerstone players of that franchise. In Houston, he assisted in the trades for Kyle Lowry, Gorin Dragic and James Harden. Both teams have thrived in the wake of his influence and currently exist as top contenders in the NBA’s Western Conference.
With basketball establishing itself more and more as a global game, AK’s entire history as a player, coach and executive makes him a perfect figure to lead a team that has overall ran itself like a mom-and-pop operation for essentially the entirety of Jerry Reinsdorf’s 35 years in owning the Bulls.
As a standard-setter and big-picture painter, AK looks promising, but where this new dynamic duo can really change things is in regards to superstar recruitment, an area where Eversley plays a huge role.
Eversley has a vast amount of experience within front offices both in the areas of scouting — serving as the vice president of scouting with the Washington Wizards — and player personnel — serving as vice president of player personal and assistant general manager with the Philadelphia 76ers in 2016. However, a standout aspect of Eversley’s history involves player connectivity, coming from his working at Nike prior to joining former 76ers GM Bryan Colangelo staff.
Reportedly, Eversley still has good connections with the shoes and apparel powerhouse, on top of his personal connections with superstars like Joel Embiid and DeMar DeRozen, a player that the Bulls have shown past interest in and one who may be looking for a new home in the next off-season after spending time on the Spurs’ trade block earlier this season.
Under GarPax, the Bulls have not had anything close to a superstar player working in their prime since Jimmy Butler, before eventually trading him in 2017. As the paused sports world unites around the re-telling of the Bulls’ dynasty era it only further drives home the fact that they have not sniffed a Finals appearance since the Jordan era ended 22 years ago and hasn’t touched the Eastern Conference Finals since 2011, or even made the playoffs in four of the past five seasons overall, stuck in a self-made loop of seasons just at or under .500.
Its worth mentioning that the Bulls history in whiffing to bring in superstar talent, though most pronounced with Dwyane Wade and LeBron James in 2010 and Carmelo Anthony in 2014, has been a problem dating back to Jerry Krause as GM, he himself of the mixed legacy of making shrewd moves that helped bring the 90s championships while also alienating just about every meaningful member of the team and turning them against management.
Much like it was when the Bulls were winning, the league went in the direction that Michael Jordan went to and that was away from the Bulls’ organization.
AK and Eversley know that the once-legendary franchise they are steering deserves a superstar and to bring one in that means not only having a seat at the superstar’s recruiting table, but also putting together chances at bringing in quality talent and developing it via the draft or free agency.
These men have a huge task ahead of them, but a big part of winning is showing up and after too long the Bulls have a tandem representing them that makes meeting the team at least half-way a reasonable proposition for the NBA’s game-changing talent.
Joshua M. Hicks is a Senior Writer for WARR Media