A lot changed for Arturas Karnisovas in the span of a week.
Last Monday, it appeared as though the former Nuggets assistant general manager could be on his way out of Denver. Karnisovas was a finalist for the Milwaukee Bucks general manager job. Accepting the position would mean leaving behind a promising young Nuggets team he’d built with Tim Connelly. It would also mean more money and a higher rank.
But then Nuggets president Josh Kroenke intervened and promoted Connelly to basketball of operations and Karnisovas to general manager. The Nuggets made the move official Thursday. On Monday, Karnisovas addressed the media for the first time since the promotion.
“I’m excited,” Karnisovas said. “My family is even more excited to stay here. It’s a great place, and we’d like to continue to get somewhere with this team and build on what we’ve been doing for the past four years.”
Connelly and Karnisovas both joined the Nuggets in the summer of 2013. In the last four years, they’ve worked together to draft young a core that includes Nikola Jokic, Gary Harris, Jamal Murray and Juancho Hernangomez. The promotion allows Karnisovas to continue working with that group — and alongside Connelly.
“We’ve been working together for four years now,” Karnisovas said of his relationship with Connelly. “We treat our group as a family. We understand each other well. We see basketball in similar fashion. We probably spend more time together than with family. So we better like each other. It’s easy.”
Karnisovas, who won bronze medals with Lithuania in the 1992 and 1996 Olympics, has deep connections in Europe. Perhaps no NBA team has been better at bringing aboard European talent than the Nuggets the last three years. They drafted Jusuf Nurkic and Jokic in 2014, and then chose Hernangomez 15th overall last summer.
On Thursday, Denver is slated to choose 13th, 49th and 51st.
“I think it’s going to be very hard to find players at 13 that can help you right away,” Karnisovas said. “We think that we have a quality roster already. But we don’t stop. We try to look for talent and a good fit.”
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