Marc Eversley wasn’t kidding.
“I think one of the things that I bring to the table is my ability to build strong relationships with other executives and agents around the league, but particularly with players,” the Chicago Bulls general manager told NBC Sports Chicago upon his hiring in May 2020.
“I think there’s a gift or an art to getting to know these players. I don’t think it’s always necessarily going to take place on the court. I think if you truly invest in players and get to know them as human beings away from the court, I think it breaks down a lot of barriers. And I think if you break down a lot of barriers, that’s really when you start to implement some change.”
Oh, the Bulls are implementing some change. How does adding DeMar DeRozan on Day 2 of free agency sound?
Eversley and DeRozan spent four seasons together when Eversley worked in the Toronto Raptors organization and DeRozan served as not only the face of a franchise but of a country’s love for basketball. By all accounts, they developed a strong bond.
And multiple sources said Eversley proved instrumental in the Bulls’ pursuit of the four-time All-Star, which comes on the heels of the Bulls’ big first day of free agency that landed Lonzo Ball and Alex Caruso.
Executive vice president Artūras Karnišovas said he didn’t want to hire a clone when speaking about Eversley’s hire. And Eversley said the ability to have an “open room, open dialogue” made the job appealing.
“It’s our job to equip ‘AK’ with as much information as possible so he can make the best decisions,” Eversley said in the May 2020 sitdown with NBC Sports Chicago.
All these changes are collaborative efforts. One of Karnišovas’ first hires was cap specialist J.J. Polk, who has been working overtime in the weeks leading up to this frenzied period.
But nobody supplied more information on DeRozan than Eversley, who knew him intimately.
The signing signals another win-now move and another example of management identifying a problem — lack of free-throw attempts — and addressing it immediately. DeRozan tied for eighth in the NBA with 7.2 attempts per game in 2020-21, while the Bulls, as a team, ranked last, averaging 17.5. His addition also fortifies the team’s wing depth and, fresh off averaging a career-high 6.9 assists, adds another dynamic perimeter playmaker, which last season were points of strain.
This is a move that big-market teams make. Sure, it’s a surprise that management is sacrificing as much first-round draft capital as it has, particularly since Karnišovas and Eversley arrived from franchises that drafted well. But if these moves pan out, the next two first-round picks they give up will be lower ones.
Plus, the fact that two of the bigger-name free agents chose to sign with the Bulls is encouraging for the future of a management team that is continuing its massive makeover. Now, only Zach LaVine and Coby White — and the cap hold of Lauri Markkanen — remain from the roster Karnišovas, Eversley and their staff inherited.
Back in that sitdown with NBC Sports Chicago upon his hiring, Eversley offered another nugget of note.
“Free agency is obviously a tricky thing. There are no assurances,” he said. “But I think we’re positioned well enough.”
He wasn’t kidding.