The Denver Nuggets responded to the Milwaukee Bucks’ serious pursuit of assistant general manager Arturas Karnisovas to run its basketball operations with a promotion to become Denver’s general manager, league sources told The Vertical.
Denver president and governor Josh Kroenke created an opportunity for Karnisovas to continue to work under Tim Connelly, elevating Connelly, the GM, to president of basketball operations, league sources told The Vertical.
Karnisovas had emerged as a finalist for Milwaukee’s GM job, and the extended decision-making process within Bucks ownership played a part in Denver’s aggressiveness to find a solution with Karnisovas’ agent, Spencer Breecker, to hold onto Karnisovas, league sources said.
Karnisovas informed Bucks ownership on Wednesday afternoon that he had withdrawn from consideration, sources said.
Karnisovas and Bucks assistant GM Justin Zanik were the two finalists for the Milwaukee GM job, and league sources say that the Bucks’ ownership group is still trying to come to a consensus to make an offer. Former Atlanta Hawks GM Wes Wilcox has also been in consideration.
Connelly and Karnisovas have worked closely with Kroenke on reshaping the Nuggets’ roster, nearly making the playoffs in the 2016-17 season with the emergence of gifted young big man Nikola Jokic and other key young players.
Karnisovas was a finalist for the Brooklyn Nets GM job a year ago, finishing as runner-up to Sean Marks. Karnisovas, a two-time Olympic medalist for Lithuania, has moved up rapidly in the NBA, including stops in the league office, Houston and now under Connelly in Denver.
Zanik has been running the Bucks’ predraft process since the departure of GM John Hammond to the Orlando Magic.
Zanik has been the Bucks’ assistant GM since 2016, joining Milwaukee after three years as assistant GM with the Utah Jazz. As part of the Jazz front office, Zanik worked with GM Dennis Lindsey on the hiring of coach Quin Snyder and the drafting of Rudy Gobert, Rodney Hood and Dante Exum. Zanik was a longtime player agent before being hired in Utah.