The 2020 Western Conference finals must have presented a wide range of emotions for Artūras Karnišovas.
On the one hand, the Bulls' newly minted executive vice president of basketball operations was all in on his new challenge and dream job of serving as a lead executive. On the other, he watched as the Denver Nuggets advanced to within one step of the NBA Finals.
A Nuggets team which, as Tim Connelly's right-hand man and second in charge for seven seasons, he played a large role in helping assemble.
Those players know. Which is why they enjoyed running into Karnišovas in passing Monday night at the United Center as the Bulls and Nuggets squared off for the first time since he changed jobs.
"He’s a really good dude. We enjoyed his time while he was in Denver. He was always talking to me," guard Jamal Murray said. "That’s someone who always wants the best for you. I met his wife. He let me come over and his kid was hooping and all that. He’s just a good guy, one of those family guys you love to keep in contact with. You’re going to hear that same kind of answer from everybody. Just a good guy who does his job really well."
Perhaps no stronger bond emerged from his Nuggets' tenure than the one Karnišovas shared with Nikola Jokić, whose extraordinary skills were on full display against the Bulls. Drafted in the second round, Jokić is now a perennial All-NBA candidate who said he first met Karnišovas two years before the draft.
"I just have a long relationship with him. He’s from Europe so (we) have a similar mindset. He’s a great guy to have," Jokić said. "This is a new challenge for him. I’m looking forward to see what he’s going to do. They have an All-Star this year [Zach LaVine] so that’s a good thing. I wish him all the best."