1-on-1 with Nuggets’ General Manager Arturas Karnisovas
BY T.J. MCBRIDE, BSN DENVER
It was a jam-packed Monday morning at Pepsi Center as the Nuggets held what is likely their last pre-draft workout. Players like Gary Harris, Emmanuel Mudiay, Will Barton and Darrell Arthur were in attendance, as was Denver’s front office brain trust.
Fresh off their recent promotions, President of Basketball Operations Tim Connelly and General Manager Arturas Karnisovas spoke with the media about the upcoming draft, free agency and the organization as a whole. It was an especially timely presser considering just last week Nuggets’ President Josh Kroenke announced the promotions of both Connelly and Karnisovas, the latter of which was a finalist for the Milwaukee Bucks’ General Manager opening. The move by Kroenke was executed to retain Denver’s No. 2 executive in Karnisovas and keep the current structure and hierarchy in Denver intact.
After speaking with reporters, Karnisovas spoke with BSN Denver about the Nuggets, his decision to stay with Denver, Nikola Jokic, and the offseason.
T.J. McBride: Is this a dream come true for you? You interviewed for the Nets job, then Miluawakee. Now that you finally have the GM title is that a moment of clarity for you?
Arturas Karnisovas: Absolutely. I have gotten texts from people that I have known for a long time and they said it has been a journey for me. The 18-year-old Lithuanian kid that didn’t speak English to come here and go to school in the states. It has been a journey and I am very proud.
TM: A Serbian news outlet, about six or seven months ago, brought out a story that you actually talked to Jokic before he signed an overseas deal and, instead, to come to Summer League and play for the Nuggets. Was there any validity to that story?
AK: The thing is that he was wobbling before he declared for the draft. I think we were probably the most aggressive in trying to keep him in the draft. He was in the Hoop Summit prior to the draft so it was not like nobody saw him before and, again, we got lucky with that pick.
TM: What did you see in his style of play, being that the player we see now is different from the player in Serbia. What was the skill-set you saw?
AK: I don’t think he was different. I think the most difficult thing for the NBA guys is how his lack of athleticism would translate in our league. In terms of skill level; passing and shooting and all of that stuff, it was there. He was running circles around very athletic centers just because of his skill and skill level. Everything was ‘how can this guy adapt in a league with a lack of verticality and succeed in our league’. That was the question.
TM: How does Jokic represent what the Nuggets are all about? Has he brought to light what the Nuggets have worked towards as an organization?
AK: Jokic gave us an identity, which we were looking for. Last year we were searching for an identity. We are an offensive team but, obviously, we are not a defensive team. We will have to improve in that category but we almost found players that we are looking for to insert with Nikola and the core players we have right now. The ones that can move without the ball can pass, can spot up shoot, and that helps us to look for players, even in the draft.”
TM: That goes back to what Tim Connelly said where you each have a similar idea about basketball. Tim embodies that philosophy, correct?
AK: “Yes. In terms of basketball, we have similar stuff. Tim is unbelievable as a talent evaluator. He sees stuff that a lot of people don’t but we agree on a lot of what Denver Nuggets players should embody. We are looking for talent but we are also looking for character and mental aspects too.”