Arturas Karnisovas

Nuggets Notes: Millsap, Connelly, Karnisovas, Offseason

The Nuggets are optimistic they’ll retain veteran forward Paul Millsap, though not necessarily by picking up his $30.1MM option for next season, Sean Keeler of the Denver Post reports. “Our goal and Paul’s goal is to have him back with us,” Nuggets president of basketball operations Tim Connelly said. The easiest way to do that would be to pick up the option by the June 29 deadline but that would hamper the team’s ability to make upgrades.

It already has more than $90MM in guaranteed salary commitments for next season. A more likely scenario would be to decline the option and sign Millsap to a multi-year deal in free agency at a lower annual salary. “We both want the same thing,” Connelly said. “We’ll figure out the best way for the organization and Paul to make sure that’s achieved. I fully expect Paul to be back in a Nuggets uniform.”

We have more on the Nuggets:

  • Connelly downplayed his interview with the Wizards for their top front office job, Mike Singer of the Denver Post tweets. “We just had a conversation. It was not much more than that,” Connelly said. There are conflicting reports on whether the Wizards formally made Connelly a four-year contract offer but he ultimately decided to stay put.
  • Head coach Michael Malone said the organization “wouldn’t have skipped a beat” if Connelly had taken the Wizards job and the Nuggets replaced him with GM Arturas Karnisovas, Nick Kosmider of The Athletic tweets. However, Malone is happy Connelly decided to stay since they and owner Josh Kroenke have a strong working relationship.
  • The Nuggets can’t continue to rely on developing their young players alone to bridge the gap between them and the other championship contenders, Kosmider writes. The moves that Connelly makes this offseason will be crucial and viewed with intense scrutiny, Kosmider adds.

Wizards Meeting With Nuggets’ Tim Connelly

9:32am: Connelly will meet today with Wizards owner Ted Leonsis and advisor Mike Forde, tweets Candace Buckner of The Washington Post. As Buckner explains, there has been a belief that Connelly didn’t want to interview for the job like a traditional applicant would, which is a signal that this meeting is serious.

Buckner adds (via Twitter) that Washington would likely have to offer Connelly $4MM+ annually over five years to get him to leave Denver.

7:32am: The Wizards have requested and received permission to meet with Nuggets president of basketball operations Tim Connelly to discuss their own head of basketball operations vacancy, reports ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski. League sources tell Wojnarowski that the two sides could meet as soon as Friday.

NBA teams have the right to deny their executives permission to interview for a job with a rival club, particularly if it would be perceived as a lateral move. However, as Wojnarowski explains, Connelly has “deep ties to the Mid-Atlantic region and some extenuating family considerations,” so the Nuggets won’t stop him from exploring the opportunity. The Baltimore native likely wouldn’t have considered overtures from any team besides the Wizards, Woj notes.

The Nuggets are confident in the ability of general manager Arturas Karnisovas to assume control of their basketball operations if Connelly does decide to leave Denver, sources tell Wojnarowski. Connelly was initially elevated to his position after Masai Ujiri left for Toronto under similar circumstances, so the Nuggets have been in this position before.

It’s possible that draft-pick compensation could be involved if the Wizards hire Connelly away from the Nuggets, as Fred Katz of The Athletic points out.

The Wizards, who have been in the market for a new head of basketball operations since dismissing Ernie Grunfeld before the end of the regular season, will likely have to offer a substantial raise to lure Connelly away from Denver, as Chris Mannix of SI.com (Twitter link) and Katz observe. He’s believed to be earning a salary in the range of $2MM per year with the Nuggets.

While the Wizards have been conducting their search for Grunfeld’s replacement, Tommy Sheppard has been running the front office on an interim basis. Sheppard is under consideration for the permanent job, as are Thunder VP of basketball operations Troy Weaver and veteran executive Danny Ferry. Both Weaver and Ferry met with the Wizards for second interviews, according to reports from Katz and Shams Charania at The Athletic and Candace Buckner of The Washington Post.

Nuggets’ Tim Connelly Agrees To Extension

Nuggets president of basketball operations Tim Connelly has agreed to a contract extension, ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski tweets.

Connelly’s contract could have expired at the end of this season, but he has been in negotiations for several weeks with Nuggets president Josh Kroenke on a new deal, Wojnarowski adds in another tweet.

The team has confirmed the extension in a press release. General manager Arturas Karnisovas and the entire basketball operations staff in Denver have also received extensions, according to the release.

“It gives me immense pride to announce contract extensions for our entire front office, as our journey to this point has been one of hard work, patience and trust in one another,” Kroenke said in a statement. “When Tim joined us in 2013, he understood the vision that we had for the future of the Nuggets, and through his dedication our program is incredibly well positioned to compete at the highest level for years to come. Building a true championship contender in the NBA is a unique process for each franchise, and our path in Denver hasn’t always been clear. But Tim, Arturas and the rest of our staff continued to work through every challenge we faced along the way, and I hope Nuggets fans are as excited as we are about our future. We firmly believe we can bring an NBA championship to Denver, and are thrilled to continue our pursuit together.”

The Nuggets have emerged as one of the Western Conference’s top teams, mainly due to smart selections in the draft. Denver has drafted All-Star center Nikola Jokic and guards Jamal MurrayGary Harris and Malik Beasley during Connelly’s regime.

This isn’t the first time Connelly received an extension. He got one from the Nuggets in 2016 when he held the title of GM. Karnisovas held the title of assistant GM at the time.

Sixers Add Four Names To GM Search

The Sixers are expanding the list of candidates for their vacant GM job and will interview four more prospects next week, tweets Keith Pompey of The Philadelphia Inquirer. Former Sixers player Elton Brand is joined on the list by fellow team executives Marc Eversley, Ned Cohen and Alex Rucker.

Philadelphia began interviews for the opening this week after receiving permission to talk with Larry Harris of the Warriors, Gersson Rosas of the Rockets and Justin Zanik of the Jazz. The organization has been operating without a GM since Bryan Colangelo departed in June amid charges of releasing sensitive information on Twitter. Nuggets GM Arturas Karnisovas was scheduled to interview as well, but decided to decline the opportunity, Pompey adds (Twitter link).

Brand played for five teams in a 17-year NBA career, finishing up with the Sixers in 2016. He is vice president of basketball operations in Philadelphia and serves as GM for the Delaware Blue Coats, the organization’s G League affiliate. Cohen is the Sixers’ assistant GM, Eversley is senior VP of player personnel and Rucker is senior VP of analytics and strategy. All four were promoted to their current positions after Colangelo left.

Nuggets GM Talks Harris, Faried, Expectations

A September report indicated that Gary Harris and the Nuggets have a good chance of reaching an agreement on a contract extension for the fourth-year shooting guard before the October 16 deadline. With 10 days left for the two sides to work something out, Nuggets GM Arturas Karnisovas confirmed that a potential deal with Harris is “in the works,” telling Gina Mizell of The Denver Post that he’s optimistic about getting something done.

“He’s been such a huge part of what we’re trying to do here, a representation of what we’re building here,” Karnisovas said of Harris. “Him going through trade rumors and still staying with us and being consistent and being a good leader for our guys and (knowing) how to do it, he was the ultimate professional. We’re trying to find ways to keep him here as long as we can.”

During his visit to The Denver Post’s newsroom, Karnisovas – who received a promotion to general manager during the offseason – also addressed a few other noteworthy topics, so let’s round up a few of the highlights from the Nuggets executive:

On Kenneth Faried‘s strongly-worded comments about wanting to be a starter:

“We welcome that. It’s a competitive spirit, and we want our training camp to be competitive. We didn’t want to just give guys playing time. We want them to earn it. That’s a good approach. Whoever earns minutes in the preseason is going to play.”

On the most challenging aspect of building a roster and dealing with constant player movement:

“Overall, it’s continuity and do not exaggerate your wins and don’t over-exaggerate your losses. Just kind of stay calm through all this process. I think we also have to figure out the healthy balance between young talent and meshing it with veteran players. Players like Paul [Millsap]. We chased [Dwyane] Wade before. We kind of need players in the locker room that have done it.

“Paul has been an All-Star four times and he’s been part of 60-win teams. It was important for us to find a formula that we can kind of use a vet. Last year, we were (one of the) top three youngest teams in the league. When we added Paul, we were very excited. Ultimate professional. Good teammate. Our young players gravitate toward that kind of good example, and they learn from it.”

On his goal for the Nuggets’ progress in 2017/18:

“Progress is a good word. We never like to put a number on wins. Playoffs is our target. Where, in terms of [seeding], we don’t know. But I think from previous years, we need to start well. The first 20 games are a huge emphasis for us, to be competitive and hopefully to stay .500 and over .500. Just be better than last year. We were close last year to making the playoffs, so this year should be a good year. I think we have a group of young players that got better, and we added Paul Millsap. Hopefully, we can stay healthy. That’s always a huge factor

Northwest Notes: Westbrook, Jazz, Karnišovas

While Kevin Durant left the Thunder to join the Warriors in pursuit of a championship, Enes Kanter does not believe Russell Westbrook will do the same, the Turkish big man said to Sports Illustrated. Durant’s move proved wise as he captured his first NBA championship this season, leaving behind a legacy in Oklahoma City.

Westbrook enjoyed a historic season in 2016/17, averaging a triple-double (the first since Oscar Robertson in 1962) and is possibly the Most Valuable Player Award winner. Statistics and accomplishments aside, Kanter feels Westbrook best quality is loyalty.

“One thing I saw about him is he’s a loyal guy,” Kanter said. “I understand he’s from L.A., he loves L.A., he goes to L.A. every summer, but he’s a loyal player. I think he’s gonna finish his career in Oklahoma City.”

Westbrook signed an extension with OKC for three-years, $85.7MM last August, so his immediate future remains with the Thunder. However, the Los Angeles native still has strong ties to his hometown and that could be a factor in his NBA future.

Below are additional notes around the Northwest Division:

  • The Jazz were swept by the Warriors in the postseason and none of the games were particularly close. However, Durant joined The Bill Simmons’ Podcast and talked about the series being a difficult because of the team’s interior defense and athleticism. “They are going to be really good,” Durant said of the Jazz. “I like them if they keep everything, that’s the thing.”
  • Artūras Karnišovas remained with the Nuggets and was promoted to general manager and he’s happy to stay, per Chris Dempsey of Altitude Sports (links via Twitter). Karnišovas shared an amusing story of not being allowed in the Nuggets draft room while the Bucks were courting him for their GM opening.
  • Former Rookie of the Year Karl-Anthony Towns spoke to USA Today’s Alysha Tsuji and discussed his prior comments of the Timberwolves “coming soon.” Towns feels his young team is on the verge of breaking out as a viable contender in the NBA that can compete for success.
  • Speaking of Minnesota, Arizona’s Lauri Markkanen has visited with the T’Wolves for a pre-draft workout, according to Darren Wolfson of 5 Eyewitness News (via Twitter).

Nuggets Promote Karnisovas, Scramble Bucks’ GM Search

Arturas Karnisovas, one of the finalists for the Bucks’ vacant GM position, has accepted a promotion from the Nuggets, tweets Adrian Wojnarowski of The Vertical.

Denver owner Stan Kroenke has promoted Karnisovas to general manager and made GM Tim Connelly the new president of basketball operations (Twitter link). Karnisovas has withdrawn as a candidate in Milwaukee (Twitter link).

He and Bucks assistant GM Justin Zanik were reportedly the two finalists for the position, which opened up when John Hammond was hired last month as the new GM in Orlando. Former Hawks GM and current advisor Wes Wilcox was also listed as a finalist in stories last week.

Karnisovas, 46, has been serving as assistant GM with the Nuggets since 2013. He was also a candidate for the Nets’ open GM job last year.

Bucks GM Search Down To Two Candidates?

The Bucks will likely choose between their assistant GM, Justin Zanik, and Nuggets assistant GM Arturas Karnisovas as their next GM, league sources informed Marc Stein of ESPN.com. Milwaukee could announce its choice as early as this week, Stein adds (Twitter links).

The position opened up when John Hammond was named the Magic’s GM last month. Zanik was hired as Hammond’s assistant last season after serving as an assistant GM in the Jazz organization for three years. Hammond had been the Bucks’ GM since 2008 after serving as the top assistant to former Pistons President of Basketball Operations Joe Dumars.

Karnisovas was hired by Denver in 2013 and is currently working under Nuggets GM Tim Connelly. He was a candidate for the Nets’ GM job last season but Brooklyn ultimately chose Sean Marks.

Bucks Narrow GM Search To Three Finalists

After conducting a “broad” search for a new general manager, the Bucks have narrowed their group of candidates down to three finalists, reports Adrian Wojnarowski of The Vertical. According to Wojnarowski, Nuggets assistant GM Arturas Karnisovas, Hawks advisor Wes Wilcox, and Bucks assistant GM Justin Zanik have emerged as the top contenders for the position.

The Bucks conducted a round of interviews in New York this week, and will now bring Karnisovas and Wilcox to Milwaukee for additional meetings with team officials, per Wojnarowski. Zanik is already in Milwaukee, having been tasked with making draft preparations for the franchise in the wake of former GM John Hammond‘s departure.

According to previous reports, the Bucks had also been considering Pacers president of basketball operations Peter Dinwiddie, Grizzlies VP of player personnel Ed Stefanski, Pistons associate GM Pat Garrity and Heat assistant GM Adam Simon, Blazers assistant GM Bill Branch, and Timberwolves assistant GM Noah Croom, among others. However, it appears those execs are no longer in the running.

As Wojnarowski details, there is “strong internal staff support” within the Bucks organization for the team to simply promote Zanik. Co-owners Marc Lasry and Wes Edens, as well as Jamie Dinan, are heavily involved in the process though, and have differing opinions on the best candidates for the job, as Gery Woelfel of The Racine Journal Times writes.

Woelfel’s report, which was published before Wojnarowski, cited sources who said that Zanik and Karnisovas are “held in high regard” by Bucks ownership.

Bucks Ready To Start GM Interviews

The Bucks are finalizing their list of GM candidates with interviews expected to start Monday, according to Adrian Wojnarowski of The Vertical.

Assistant GM Justin Zanik remains a strong candidate to replace John Hammond, who left to become GM of the Magic. Sources tell Wojnarowski that Zanik has strong support inside and outside the Bucks organization.

Others expected to interview for the position are Minnesota assistant GM Noah Croom, Indiana vice president of basketball operations Peter Dinwiddie, Detroit assistant GM Pat Garrity, Denver assistant GM Arturas Karnisovas and Memphis VP of player personnel Ed Stefanski. Many of the names were already known, but Croom is a new addition, Wojnarowski tweets.

Sources indicate that Bucks owners Marc Lasry and Wes Edens will participate in the interviews. An original list of candidates was trimmed by a search firm.