Nuggets assistant GM Karnisovas proud of HOF connection

Denver executive and Sarunas Marciulionis were Olympic teammates
by Aaron Lopez

Last summer, Nuggets coach Brian Shaw traveled to Springfield, Mass., to see longtime friend Gary Payton inducted into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame.

This year, it will be Denver assistant general manager Arturas Karnisovas’ turn.

Karnisovas plans to attend the Hall of Fame ceremony in August in support of former Olympic teammate Sarunas Marciulionis, who was among the Class of 2014 announced Monday.

“I am very happy for Sarunas to receive the distinguished honor of being inducted into the Hall of Fame,” Karnisovas said. “He has been a pioneer of international basketball in the NBA. I am proud that he has been my teammate, mentor and friend.”

Marciulionis became the first Soviet play in the NBA when he joined the Golden State Warriors in 1989, and he was the driving force behind Lithuania’s bronze-medal run at the 1992 Olympics in Barcelona.

Karnisovas, a 21-year-old college sophomore at the time, also played for that memorable Lithuanian team. Buoyed by the financial support of the Grateful Dead, the Lithuanians captivated fans with their underdog story and indomitable spirit exemplified by their tie-dye T-shirts.

After the Olympics, Marciulionis went on to play four more NBA seasons and spent his final year with the Nuggets in 1996-97.