New Bulls GM Karnisovas' strength lies in his connections

There was no official announcement Thursday from the Bulls, but also no reason to think their plans have changed.

The Bulls appear to have settled on Denver Nuggets general manager Arturas Karnisovas to be their new head of basketball operations.

Of the four people who were originally thought to be the top candidates, only Karnisovas interviewed with the Bulls. Indiana GM Chad Buchanan and Miami assistant GM Adam Simon removed themselves from consideration, while the Bulls did not receive permission to speak with Toronto GM Bobby Webster. Yahoo Sports reported the Bulls were also denied permission to interview Oklahoma City vice president of basketball operations Troy Weaver.

News broke late Wednesday night that the Bulls had entered contract negotiations with Karnisovas and that he is taking the job with the blessing of Nuggets owner Josh Kroenke and president of basketball operations Tim Connelly.

Karnisovas' greatest strength might be his connections. Between his years as a player, the years he helped run the NBA's Basketball Without Borders camps around the world and his years as an international scout, Karnisovas has confidants around the globe.

The biggest success story of his career was likely when the Nuggets landed all-star center Nikola Jokic in the second round of the 2014 draft. In that same draft, Denver traded its first-round pick, Doug McDermott, to the Bulls for two later selections that turned out to be Gary Harris and Jusuf Nurkic. That trade and McDermott's disappointing career helped lead the Bulls on the path to where they decided to rebuild and now are reshaping the front office.

"I enjoy the draft. I enjoy the adrenaline," Karnisovas told The Denver Post in 2017. "There are some who dread that, but I enjoy it. The draft is the culmination, the end product of all you're doing to get to know a player, his character. ... My favorite part is when you pick a player and you see him have success."

The 6-foot-8 Karnisovas, 48, is a native of Lithuania. As a player, he was billed as a stone-faced assassin who could excel in every phase of the game. He's credited with being the first player from the Soviet Union to play at a U.S. college when he went to Seton Hall in 1990 to play for coach P.J. Carlesimo.

While Karnisovas was in college, the Soviet Union dissolved and Lithuania was again an independent nation. Karnisovas played for Lithuania in the 1992 and '96 Olympics, winning a bronze medal in '92.

After a professional career playing overseas and five years working for the NBA, Karnisovas joined the Houston Rockets as an international scout. He became assistant general manager for the Nuggets in 2013.

The Bulls interviewed several other candidates in the past two days, including Utah Jazz GM Justin Zanek, former Atlanta Hawks GM Wes Wilcox, and longtime NBA executives Bryan Colangelo and Danny Ferry.

Twitter: @McGrawDHBulls

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