HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS — Let the case of Nuggets big man Kenneth Faried be a lesson to all NBA rookies fortunate enough to be drafted by a playoff-caliber team that doesn’t need him in the starting lineup from the first day of training camp.
Faried was in the shadows at the start of this season, unsure of his role and whether or not he would spend his season with the Nuggets or with their D-League affiliate. If you weren’t careful, you’d have forgotten he was even on the roster the first few weeks of the season. Faried played in just three games through the end of January.
Since then, however, the man known as “Manimal” since his college days, has been one of the most consistently outstanding rookies in the league. (That would explain his lofty perch on my main man Drew Packham‘s Rookie Ladder.)
It’s obvious Faried didn’t fret when he wasn’t in the rotation. He kept his head down, kept working and earned the respect of Nuggets coach George Karl and his teammates with his non-stop energy and effort and a relentless approach that fans anywhere should appreciate.
Now he’s playing crucial, late-game minutes for the Nuggets, a team in thick of the playoff chase in the Western Conference.
Just how crucial those minutes are was on full display Sunday, when the Nuggets knocked off the Magic in Orlando. More on Faried’s big minutes from Benjamin Hochman of the Denver Post:
Faried helped the Nuggets beat the Magic 104-101 on Sunday by grabbing a team-high nine rebounds. He blocked two shots in the final four minutes.
“Jameer (Nelson) was coming down the lane,” Faried said of his first block, “and he was hitting that shot all game, so I wanted to show him, like, ‘Hey, we’re going stop this now and we’re going to win this game.’ He was trying to take over the game. As for Ryan Anderson, he came quickly and it was shocking how quick the back cut was, but I still got up high enough and got my hand on it.”
Faried leads NBA rookies in rebounds, averaging 7.1 per game.
“It’s fun for me to outrun bigs, make coaches get mad and call timeouts,” Faried said. “And it’s fun to outrebound a guy and give him headaches and think: ‘Why is he always on the glass? Won’t he just stop?’ ”
Karl said of Faried: “We don’t win the game without his energy. I don’t know how crazy his fouls and mistakes were, but I still don’t think we win the game. I’m happy he got to play at the end of the game, because we need him to be more comfortable.”
Since the All-Star break, and the trade deadline move that sent Nene to Washington for JaVale McGee, Faried has been a mainstay in the rotation and an absolute force for the Nuggets.
He’s averaging 11.8 points, 7.9 rebounds and 24 minutes per game since the break. His per-48 minute average of 16.6 is good enough for the top spot among rookies and would be good enough for 8th among all players, if he qualified.
We’re convinced that Faried’s play leading up to the deadline played a part in the Nuggets feeling comfortable enough about parting ways with Nene and taking the risk on adding McGee to their mix.
Provided he finishes as strong as he has played the past six weeks, decision makers around the league need to be on the lookout for college players that fit the same profile and are willing to accept the roles they are drafted into and excel at then, regardless of the other variables involved.