General Manager Marc Eversley spoke to media members on Wednesday, giving insight on the hiring of Billy Donovan, the challenge of bringing the Bulls back to relevance, and how Otto Porter Jr. has looked at Advocate Bulls Minicamp.
At least the Bulls aren't setting expectations too high this time.
"This team is better than a 22-win team, the talent is," Bulls General Manager Marc Eversley was saying Wednesday during a Zoom conference with local media. "If we tweak it and do some little things, I think we'll see some results that are positive.
"When we came in, we talked a lot about player development," Eversley added during his first media session since his introductory comments on May 1. "I like a lot of the players on this roster. I think if we put together an efficient, effective player development program I think you will see a quick turnaround in terms of the output that these players give. By going out and getting a Billy Donovan (as head coach), he brings winning. He brings leadership. He brings player development. I think if you put that voice at the top of this thing I think our players will grow. I don't know if it's going to be immediate, but they're going to grow. We do have assets going forward in terms of the flexibility a year from now (for free agency). Again, if we can grow these players internally I think we are going to see success on the court."
Which is just about the only message the Bulls can deliver these days with the start of next season still uncertain and likely to extend into 2021. The Bulls have made perhaps the most news among the teams not invited to Orlando with new management and veteran Donovan a surprise hire as head coach.
"We had interviewed 10 candidates right up until Billy... became free," Eversley revealed. "We were pretty far along in the process. I don't know if we put a number (of eventual interviews on) it, but we had identified a group of candidates who we felt pretty comfortable with going forward if a Billy Donovan were not to become available.
"Anytime a coach of his ability becomes available, I think you owe it to the organization, the fan base, to explore to see if that person can become the next head coach of the Bulls," said Eversley. "We sat and talked about it for a long time and said, ‘Look, if this guys becomes available, we owe it to ourselves to dig in on him and figure out if he could be somebody who could be our next head coach.
Marc Eversley's full media call from Advocate Bulls Minicamp
"One of the things that we had talked about was we need to practice patience," Eversley acknowledged about the coaching search. "We (needed) to be thorough and practice patience. When Billy became available, I think Arturas called an Uber and he wanted to head to O'Hare right away. His aggressiveness was thorough, but it was also well thought out. And he had reasons why he thought we need to attack this thing and gather as much information as possible about Billy. One thing about AK is when we want to get something, he gets it done. He's really thoughtful about it. But when there's a decision to be made, he makes it and we move forward."
And now with the corporate suite complete, Eversley as general manager, effectively being Karnisovas' chief deputy, the message becomes the formula of the elusive alchemy of turning the intelligence of good planning into results.
"We're trying to bring this team back to relevance, absolutely," said the confident new GM. "This is the Chicago Bulls; it's an iconic brand. There's a tremendous amount of history. But with that, we also take tremendous... responsibility."
Like Stan Lee declared. "With great power comes great responsibility." It's a slightly different Peter principle.
"I think we've embraced that, AK, myself, Pat (Connelly, player personnel director) and JJ (Polk, assistant general manager) in terms of leading this franchise back to relevance," Eversley said. "I think we made a gigantic leap in terms of making a commitment to the fanbase by going out and getting a coach with the qualities of a Billy Donovan. We've talked a lot about how this is not a rebuild. We're looking to retool this thing and we think Billy is going to put us in a position to do that in the foreseeable future. So, yeah, there's a little bit of pressure in terms of responsibility of getting this franchise back to relevance, but we embrace that. We embrace it on a daily basis. And some of the decisions that we've made on a daily basis kind of reflect that."
The most recent was the hiring from New Orleans of a new trainer, Todd Campbell, in the wake of another Bulls injury plagued season. Though one that was difficult to blame on any medical treatment given the curious injuries.
Kris Dunn suffered a knee injury when a teammate fell into him. He's the only Bulls roster player not in the team's Advocate Bulls Minicamp. Eversley said Dunn, who could become a free agent, is still doing rehabilitation.
"I think Kris decided not to participate because he's not healthy," Eversley said, declining to be more specific. "He's on the road rehabbing by himself, which we fully support. Whether he's going to be with us going forward is a decision we'll make when we get together post-bubble and start talking roster construction. Obviously he had a great year. He's a terrific defender. When he gets back to health, hopefully he'll come back to being a full participant in the gym and work out right before free agency."
Eversley did add that another of the perennially injured players, Otto Porter Jr., has looked strong and effective in practices.
Otto Porter Jr. at Advocate Bulls Minicamp
"Physically, he looks great," Eversley said of Porter. ‘He's been a full participant in the camp thus far. I think last year when he came in, he was really bulky and heavy and that may have contributed to some of the injuries he suffered. I'm familiar with Otto from my days with him in Washington. When he was in Washington he was a little sleeker. I thought even though he's not a high level athlete, he moved a lot better. I think he's getting back to that in terms of how he looked and how he's been moving and, of course, a player like Otto brings a lot of different things to the table, especially defensively. I think he's a switchable player, he can play small forward, he can guard small fours. I think if we can get him back to that level he's going to help this team win games.
"(Campbell) brings 16 years of experience to the group, both from a physical therapist standpoint and a strength and conditioning standpoint," Eversley said. "One of the things that obviously stands out is they have been ravaged by injuries over the past couple of years. It's one of our focal points going forward in actually identifying what are some of the things that they were doing prior? What are they doing now? And what can we do going forward to help predict some of those injuries going forward? Going into the bubble, one of the things that was a focal point for us was making sure that we don't put our players in harm's way in terms of just throwing them out there. The performance staff has done a really great job about monitoring loads and levels and output. We've seen the results of that already. The first couple of days, quite honestly, the basketball was sloppy. It was great to see them out there. But the last three or four days, the basketball has really risen to a nice level. I think the health and wellness of our players will continue to be a focus for us and making sure that we are continuing to put them in a proper environment to succeed."
So they all went out to play golf Wednesday.
"I was able to play golf with AK, Thad (Young) and Zach (LaVine) were in my group. And they were all cheating, by the way," Eversley joked. "This environment (after practices) has been great for us whether we're at the hotel playing ping pong or air hockey or we have a golf simulator downstairs; we have a dart board."
Lots of smiling again.