Pat Connelly

Bulls Officially Hire Pat Connelly, J.J. Polk

The Bulls have officially finalized two long-awaited hires, announcing today in a press release that Pat Connelly has come aboard as the team’s vice president of player personnel, while J.J. Polk will hold the title of assistant general manager.

The additions of both Connelly and Polk were reported last month even before the club had officially announced the hiring of new executive VP of basketball operations Arturas Karnisovas or decided on Marc Eversley as its new general manager. The Bulls continue to revamp their front office after parting ways with longtime GM Gar Forman and reassigning executive VP of basketball operations John Paxson to an advisory role.

Connelly, like Karnisovas, is joining the Bulls after spending time in Denver, where he was the Nuggets’ director of pro personnel. The brother of Nuggets president of basketball operations Tim Connelly, Pat will oversee the structure and processes of Chicago’s scouting department, according to today’s announcement.

As for Polk, he arrives in Chicago after serving as the Pelicans’ executive director of basketball administration. The Bulls announced today that he’ll primarily be responsible for “strategic planning and salary cap management,” in addition to providing input on player personnel decisions.

“Pat and J.J. both bring valuable experience that will enhance our basketball operations department,” Karnisovas said in a statement. “I know that the skills these two possess will be an asset in building out our program. J.J.’s expertise with cap management and negotiations will help us be creative in our deals and contracts, while Pat’s great eye for talent, global contacts and networking capabilities will organize our scouting department in a productive way. Combined, these two basketball minds will help increase functionality and implement our vision of moving this program forward.”

Bulls To Hire Sixers’ Marc Eversley As GM

Two weeks after formally hiring Arturas Karnisovas as their new executive VP of basketball operations, the Bulls have chosen a general manager who will work with Karnisovas in their new-look front office. The club is hiring Sixers senior VP of player personnel Marc Eversley to fill that GM role, reports ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski.

Eversley was one of several candidates to interview for the general manager position following Chicago’s hiring of Karnisovas and the team’s dismissal of longtime GM Gar Forman. Matt Lloyd (Magic), Mark Hughes (Clippers), and Michael Finley (Mavericks) were among the other executives known to have spoken to the Bulls about the job.

Before reaching a deal late on Sunday night to join the Bulls, Eversley worked in the 76ers’ front office since 2016, when he was hired by the club’s former head of basketball operations, Bryan Colangelo. Eversley, a Canadian, also previous worked under Colangelo in the Raptors’ front office, with a stint as a Wizards exec in between. Prior to his time in NBA team front offices, he spent a decade working at Nike, per Wojnarowski.

This was at least the second time Eversley had interviewed for a GM job, having lost out to Mitch Kupchak on the Hornets’ position in 2018. He was also believed to be a candidate to replace Colangelo as Philadelphia’s head of basketball operations that year, but Elton Brand ultimately took over GM duties.

As Keith Pompey of The Philadelphia Inquirer details, Eversley was largely responsible for the Sixers zeroing in on Matisse Thybulle in last year’s draft and was also the first to recognize DeMar DeRozan‘s talent during his time in Toronto’s scouting department.

After the Bulls faced some criticism for a lack of diversity in their search for a head of basketball operations, Eversley will become the first black GM in team history, as Wojnarowski notes.

While Karnisovas and Eversley figure to run the show in Chicago’s revamped front office, the team is making additional changes. As previously reported, J.J. Polk and Pat Connelly are coming aboard in key roles — Woj suggests they’ll hold the titles of assistant GM and VP of player personnel, respectively. Meanwhile, K.C. Johnson of NBC Sports Chicago says that more hires are likely coming, singling out Nazr Mohammed as one executive who interviewed for an “unspecified role.”

Bulls Notes: Front Office, Boylen, Forman, Paxson

On a conference call today introducing new executive VP of basketball operations Arturas Karnisovas, Bulls COO Michael Reinsdorf said that it was clear during the search process that the former Denver GM “checked every box,” as K.C. Johnson of NBC Sports Chicago tweets. Reinsdorf admitted that his father, Bulls chairman Jerry Reinsdorf, ultimately had to sign off on the hire, but said “it was clear after that meeting that we had our guy.”

Karnisovas, meanwhile, confirmed that J.J. Polk and Pat Connelly will join the Bulls’ front office, as previously reported, and said that hiring a general manager is next on his list of priorities. According to Karnisovas, the GM search will be “extensive and diverse,” and the goal will be to hire an executive whose skills complement his own, rather than overlapping significantly with his strengths (all Twitter links via K.C. Johnson).

As for the future of head coach Jim Boylen, that remains up in the air, with Karnisovas telling reporters that there’s no timeline for a decision on Boylen or the coaching staff (Twitter link via Johnson).

Boylen took the unusual step of issuing a welcome message to the new head of basketball operations through the team’s PR department, lauding Karnisovas’ résumé and commending the Reinsdorfs for bringing him aboard.

Here’s more on the Bulls:

  • Karnisovas offered the following explanation when asked about Gar Forman‘s dismissal: “After some consideration and conversation, it was apparent that we have different philosophies that will prevent us from moving forward. Those decisions are never easy. I was hired to affect change” (Twitter link via Johnson).
  • Joe Cowley of The Chicago Sun-Times tweets that Forman’s departure should increase the Bulls’ appeal to free agents. Forman’s presence “poisoned the well” with players and agents, according to Cowley, who says the longtime general manager was viewed as “untrustworthy.”
  • Confirming a recent report, Michael Reinsdorf said today that it was John Paxson who came to ownership in the winter to suggest the need for changes in the front office (Twitter link via Johnson). Previously the Bulls’ executive VP of basketball operations, Paxson will now be a senior advisor.
  • After facing some criticism last week for a perceived lack of diversity in the Bulls’ front office search, Reinsdorf defended the team’s record on that front, as Johnson details for NBC Sports Chicago. According to Reinsdorf, two of the six candidates on the team’s short list for head of basketball operations were people of color, but Chicago was denied permission to interview both.
  • Karnisovas said today that facilitating player development will be one of his primary goals in Chicago, since the Bulls are a young team with a handful of promising young players (Twitter link via Johnson).

Central Notes: Bulls, P. Connelly, Turner, Kennard

The Bulls have yet to formally announce the hiring of Nuggets GM Arturas Karnisovas as their new executive VP of basketball operations. That delay is related in part to the fact that there’s still a possibility of other Denver staffers joining Karnisovas in Chicago, tweets Mike Singer of The Denver Post.

Sources tell ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski (Twitter links) that one such candidate who is in serious talks to join the Bulls’ front office is Nuggets director of pro personnel Pat Connelly, the brother of Denver’s president of basketball operations Tim Connelly.

Woj adds that a deal between the Bulls and Pat Connelly could come together quickly, and that an official announcement on Karnisovas’ departure from the Nuggets for Chicago could happen as soon as today.

Here’s more from around the Central Division:

  • No decisions have been made yet on Jim Boylen‘s future as head coach, but there has been “a lot of smoke” today around Adrian Griffin and the Bulls, tweets Joe Cowley of The Chicago Sun-Times. One executive tells Cowley that the current Raptors assistant is so ready for a head coaching role that he’s “over-qualified” for most jobs.
  • Pacers center Myles Turner revealed during an appearance on CJ McCollum‘s podcast (hat tip to Dan Feldman of NBC Sports) that his father was hospitalized with COVID-19 for nearly a week before recovering. “He’s not contagious anymore. He’s back on his feet,” Turner said. “It’s a blessing that he was able to make it through, but there’s a lot of people that aren’t. So, I think having something personal happen to you like that, that’s kind of what made it, the perspective, all feel real.”
  • Getting Luke Kennard back on track will be a top priority for the Pistons if the regular season resumes, Keith Langlois of NBA.com writes. The former lottery pick will be eligible for a rookie-scale extension during the offseason.

Chris Crouse contributed to this post.

Suns Rumors: Nash, Morris, Connelly, Point Guards

Former Suns guard and Hall of Famer Steve Nash has no interest in replacing GM Ryan McDonough, who was abruptly dismissed on Monday, ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski tweets. Though Nash is a favorite of owner Robert Sarver, Nash does not want the time-consuming responsibility of running a front office, Wojnarowski adds. Nash is currently a Warriors consultant. Vice president of basketball operations James Jones and assistant GM Trevor Bukstein have taken over GM duties in Phoenix on an interim basis.

We have more from Phoenix:

  • Former Suns Markieff Morris and Mike James voiced their distaste for McDonough on social media, Dan Feldman of NBC Sports relays. McDonough infuriated Morris, currently with the Wizards, and his brother Marcus Morris by trading Marcus to the Pistons in the summer of 2015 after they signed team-friendly contracts with Phoenix. “Bout time lol,” Morris tweeted after learning of McDonough’s dismissal. James, who was waived last December after signing a contract two weeks earlier, tweeted, “I don’t think he was the right person for that job.”
  • Suns assistant GM Pat Connelly and director of scouting Courtney Witte were also fired on Monday, Michael Scotto of The Athletic tweets. Connelly was the Wizards’ director of player personnel before he was hired by Phoenix in 2013. More front office changes could be on the horizon, according to Zach Lowe of ESPN (Twitter link).
  • Isaiah Canaan, Shaquille Harrison and rookies De’Anthony Melton and Elie Okobo continue to compete for point guard duties and none has emerged, Duane Rankin of the Arizona Republic reports. First-year coach Igor Kokoskov admits that he needs to see much more from all of them. “A lot of mistakes,” he told Rankin and other media members. “There’s a lot of room for improvement.”
  • The timing of McDonough’s firing is an example of how Sarver has made a mess of the franchise, Tim Bontemps of the Washington Post opines. The Suns will probably never reach their potential with Sarver heading the organization, Bontemps adds.

Suns Notes: Ellenson, Bogdanovic, Qi

Henry Ellenson is an option for the Suns at No.4 or No. 13 should he fall that far and Paul Coro of the Arizona Republic details how the 6’11” power forward turned himself into a perimeter threat. “I wasn’t always taller than [opponents]…I played point guard all the way up to eighth grade,” Ellenson said. Arthur Hill of Hoops Rumors profiled the big man prior to the draft lottery.

Here’s more out of Phoenix:

  • Phoenix continues to monitor Bogdan Bogdanovic with the hopes of him joining the team next season, Coro writes in a separate piece“Physically, he keeps getting stronger,” Suns Assistant GM Pat Connelly said of the 2014 first round pick. “His feel for the game keeps improving.”
  • The Suns worked out power forward Zhou Qi from China and former Arizona State center Eric Jacobsen over the weekend, Coro writes in a separate piece. Qi might be an ideal draft-and-stash candidate, Coro adds, but it’s undetermined whether Qi would be interested in such an arrangement.
  • The Suns will work out six more players today. Michael Bryson, Stacy Davis, Demetrius Jackson, Damion Lee, Abdel Nader and Retin Obasohan will all be in Phoenix, per the team’s Twitter feed.

Lon Babby To Reduce Role With Suns

12:59pm: The move came at Babby’s behest, according to a statement he made as part of a Suns press release confirming the transition that the team has on its website.

“I am grateful that [owner] Robert [Sarver] has accommodated my wish to reduce my work load, while remaining a vital part of the Suns organization,” Babby said. “At this stage of my career, I welcome the flexibility that comes with this new role, a flexibility that will enable me to do other things that are important to me both personally and in the community. I feel particularly confident in making this transition because of the quality of leadership in place within the organization.”

The press release doesn’t indicate that McDonough will assume Babby’s job title of president of basketball operations. McDonough will nonetheless take on added responsibilities, as will assistant GMs Pat Connelly and Trevor Bukstein, the team said.

12:07pm: Suns president of basketball operations Lon Babby will move into a role as senior adviser and GM Ryan McDonough will become the team’s head of basketball operations on August 1st, reports Paul Coro of the Arizona Republic (Twitter link). Babby has held the president’s title since the 2010/11 season, when he and former GM Lance Blanks came aboard. Phoenix replaced Blanks with McDonough in 2013.

It’s not immediately clear whether Babby, who signed a two-year deal to stick with the Suns in 2013, is choosing to make this transition or if the team is pushing him aside. Phoenix has pivoted away from the Steve Nash era under his watch, but the team has yet to make the playoffs since Babby came aboard. McDonough appears to have had plenty of influence since his hiring, experimenting with a point guard heavy roster the last two seasons, with mixed results.

Babby is a former player agent whose clients included Tim Duncan, Ray Allen and Grant Hill. McDonough, who spent several years in the Celtics organization before joining the Suns, was Boston’s assistant GM for the three seasons prior to his move to Phoenix.

Western Notes: Hollins, Clippers, Iguodala, Love

Following up on her report this morning which indicated that negotiations between the Grizzlies and Lionel Hollins had become "dormant," Ramona Shelburne of ESPNLosAngeles.com took to Twitter to add a couple more details.

According to Shelburne, talks between the two sides never really even got to money or terms, since there was a sense that the short-term deal the team wanted was a sign to Hollins that he wasn't really wanted back. Although Hollins wanted to return, coming back on a two-year contract with increased expectations and perhaps a lesser roster was a problematic scenario, says Shelburne.

Here are a few more notes from around the Western Conference:

  • One source told Shelburne that Hollins was scheduled to speak with the Clippers this afternoon (Twitter link). 
  • Michael Lee of the Washington Post tweets that the Suns have named Pat Connelly – the former Wizards' director of player personnel – as an assistant GM.  Ken Berger of CBS Sports added that Phoenix also hired Ronnie Lester – formerly the scouting director of the Lakers – as a scout along with promoting Trevor Bukstein as another assistant GM (Twitter links). 
  • According to Broderick Turner of the Los Angeles Times, the Clippers' front office loves Brian Shaw as a head coaching candidate, while owner Donald Sterling may prefer George Karl.
  • Asked by TNT's David Aldridge what effect Karl's ouster in Denver would have on his odds of re-signing with the Nuggets, Andre Iguodala replied, "Good question. Need some time to let it sink in."
  • Ten years after the Spurs nearly landed Jason Kidd in free agency, Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo! Sports looks back on a summer that would have changed the futures of two points guards, one (Kidd) who retired this week, and another (Tony Parker) who is playing in his fourth NBA Finals.
  • Appearing on ESPN's Sportscenter today (link via ESPN.com), Kevin Love said he had "absolutely" moved past any negativity he felt toward the Timberwolves and is looking forward to seeing what Flip Saunders will do as the team's new head of basketball operations.
  • John Reid of the New Orleans Times-Picayune wonders if Danny Granger would make sense as a trade target for the Pelicans.