By Drew Packham, NBA.com
LAS VEGAS — Just because it’s Summer League, don’t think for a second The Manimal is taking it easy.
Kenneth Faried, who became a vital piece to the Nuggets in his rookie season, had 16 points and 15 rebounds to lead Denver to an 85-81 win over the Knicks on Tuesday afternoon.
“It doesn’t matter (that it’s Summer League),” Faried said. “It’s going to show guys that even the best player on the team can go out and still get down and dirty.”
And Faried definitely got down and dirty. Faried had five blocks and two steals in his 35 minutes of action, diving for loose balls, slapping the floor after a tumble and keeping balls alive with his hard work on the boards.
“That’s what I do,” Faried said. “I go out and try to play my hardest every game. If I’m going to lace my sneakers up and put my ankle braces on, I’m out there to play hard no matter what.”
Faried’s energy – as well as the tight game – fed not only into the surprisingly rambunctious crowd, but also to his fellow teammates, including fellow second-year man Jordan Hamilton, who had a game-high 21 points in the win.
“That effort is infectious,” said Chad Iske, who’s handling the Nuggets’ coaching duties in Las Vegas. “It makes the other guys around him pick their energy level up. When he gets three or four jumps or tips to get that rebound it breeds throughout the players to take things to another level.”
Faried’s rookie season started slow, but the big man out of Morehead State saw increased playing time as the year wore on, starting 39 games and averaging 10.2 points and 7.7 rebounds. Faried finished third in Rookie of the Year voting, behind Cleveland’s Kyrie Irving and Minnesota’s Ricky Rubio and started all seven games as the Nuggets took the Lakers to the brink in their first-round series.
“I imagined myself playing, but not that big of a role where I happened to be one of the go-to guys in the offense,” Faried said. “ I didn’t think I’d be able to do that for some years.”