Two years ago, P.J. Carlesimo talked to Dave D'Alessandro about one of the players he coached at Seton Hall in the 1990's, a man who had just become assistant GM of the Nuggets after a successful career in a similar job with the Rockets.
"He was a star in Europe, a college star here, and he worked in the league office. Who has a better résumé than that?" Carlesimo said. "And I’ll say this: He’s not done. There are other steps for Arturas. He will probably be the next international GM."
That's Arturas Karnisovas, now a serious candidate for the Nets GM job, or as Carlesimo said, the next international GM. The 44-year-old Karnisovas has risen on the speculative lists of candidates. As the Nets former coach says, he brings a number of positives, including an international background as a player and scout and an NBA executive. Think global, act local.
His credentials as a player include two Olympic bronze medals playing for Lithuania on its first national teams after independence from the Soviet Union, two Big East championships, three trips to the Euroleague Final Four, three Spanish league championships, one Italian league championship, a European Player of the Year award and two Big East Scholar-Athlete of the Year awards ... despite arriving in South Orange not speaking a word of English. Carlesimo says the only reason he didn't make the NBA is the lack of international scouting in the 1990's and Karnisovas' big paycheck in Europe.
He did come to the NBA as an executive after his European career was over. Karnisovas moved to North Jersey, where he still maintains a home, and worked for the NBA's Basketball Operations office from 2003 to 2008. Afterwards, he became an international scout for the Rockets, while also directing the adidas Eurocamp – the European equivalent of the Chicago Pre-Draft Camp – in 2011 and 2012. He also served as a scout for Team USA. Then, in 2013, he was named assistant GM of the Nuggets.
Karnisovas, who signed a contract extension with the Nuggets last week, certainly fits one criteria the Nets are looking for. He knows international basketball. The Nets ownership hopes to expand the team talent pool by investing in European and other talent, something they don't think was pushed hard enough by the previous regime.
As Adrian Wojnarowski wrote, since he joined the Nuggets, Denver has drafted a slew of international prospects that appear to have staying power in the league including: Jusuf Nurkic, Nikola Jokic and Joffrey Lauvergne. Karnisovas had a hand in selecting Emmanuel Mudiay who played in China; and Denver has a nice Euro-Stash in Serbian point guard Nikola Radicevic. While in Houston, he was instrumental in getting the Rockets to draft Donatas Motiejunas, a fellow Lithuanian.
Like any assistant GM, Karnisovas has blank spots on his resume. He's never run a Draft Room, never had responsibility for a D-League team. He is not a management type, per se, and will probably need a strong assistant GM. But he does have other qualifications beyond his resume, as Woj noted: He speaks several languages, including Russian, and has strong relationships with the members of owner Mikhail Prokhorov's extended sporting inner-circle. He's big on analytics, something Dmitry Razumov has been pushing. He is also reportedly friendly with Billy King and Frank Zanin.
Would the Nets ownership take a chance on someone who's untested when there are big names, like Bryan Colangelo out there? Good question. On the other hand, he does have a record of accomplishment and those global and local roots.
"You could say it worked out great for me," he told D'Alessandro in 2013: "I met my wife at Seton Hall, got a career in the NBA out of it and I put down roots here, so they still call me a Jersey boy."