Adidas Eurocamp - Day 2

Kenneth Faried talks changes in Denver, first round playoff exit at adidas Eurocamp


TREVISO, Italy — Kenneth Faried was in attendance for Day 2 of adidas Eurocamp, and was used by veteran head coach and current Timberwolves executive Flip Saunders to demonstrate proper post techniques to the camp’s international players.

Faried suffered an ankle injury near the end of the regular season that wasn’t severe enough to keep him from playing once the playoffs began, but it did have a real impact on his level of production. Faried not being 100 percent, along with the late-season loss of Danilo Gallinari were legitimate factors in the Nuggets losing in the first round of the playoffs to an up and coming Golden State Warriors team.

The early playoff exit was reportedly one of several reasons that the team considered before parting ways with George Karl, who had been the head coach in Denver for nine seasons and was awarded the Coach of the Year trophy for guiding the Nuggets to 57 wins in the season that was just completed.

Despite the team’s success, Faried wasn’t surprised by the decision to separate with Karl, and plans on moving forward with whomever the Nuggets hire to replace him.

“I’m not surprised about anything in this league anymore,” Faried said. “It’s a business and things happen for a reason, so I’m just focused on what I’ve got to do on the court and leave all the business side to my management, my agent, and the ownership of the Nuggets. I’m going to stay out of all of that.”

As for that postseason loss to the Warriors, Faried believes that his injury and that of Gallinari’s were logical reasons that Denver struggled in the series.

“Well, we lost Gallo, and I guess we lost me in a sense,” he said. “It took me a while to come back and start to get going like I usually get going, and I still was lingering a bit with the tear in my ankle. It was really hard for me to give my all that I usually give in each and every game.”

In addition to relieving their award-winning coach of his duties, the Nuggets also lost their GM (who was the winner of the Executive of the Year award) in Masai Ujiri, who left on his own to pursue a lucrative offer with the Raptors.

Faried said his relationship with Ujiri during his time in Denver was a positive one, and appreciated his approach to putting a team in place.

“He was a nice guy,” Faried said of Ujiri. “He was polite, respectful, and just being around him, he really cared about winning and developing the team so guys can play in a system and we didn’t have to worry about ‘oh, this guy got that big money contract.’ He just wanted us to go out there and play and have fun. We had no All-Stars, so it was interesting to see how we played together.”

Much was made of the Nuggets success with this model, but Faried wasn’t sure if his team did well enough to prove it could work on a championship level.

“I mean, it worked, but we did get kicked out of the first round of the playoffs,” Faried said. “So you really can’t say. If we were in the Finals and we won a championship, then I think a lot of other teams would have done it. But you can’t really say.”

Faried said he’s just about fully recovered from his ankle injury, and was seen throwing down a few dunks during some downtime between the camp’s morning drills. While there was a small sense of uneasiness from Faried about the new direction the team might be taking with its recent changes, he seemed to be taking it all in with the best attitude possible.

“I can’t control any of that,” Faried said. “I’m just going to play my hardest for whoever the coach is, and hopefully it’ll turn out for the best.”

Jahlil Okafor tweets apology for recent off-court behavior

Jahlil Okafor
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The off-court incidents have been piling up for Jahlil Okafor over the past month: first, an incident captured on video that showed Okafor getting into a fight with a heckler early Thanksgiving morning; then, a report that Okafor had a gun pulled on him in a previous incident; and finally, this morning’s report that the Sixers’ No. 3 overall pick in this June’s draft had been pulled over in recent weeks for driving 108 miles per hour in Philadelphia. Together, they aren’t a good look for the rookie.

On Sunday afternoon, Okafor apologized for his recent behavior in a series of tweets:

The recent incidents involving Okafor are surprising—going into the draft, he never had any red flags for maturity or off-the-court issues. He’s certainly saying the right things after the fact, and he’s only 19, so hopefully this is nothing more than a small rough patch where he’s made some bad decisions, and not an indicator of things to come.

Kobe Bryant announces this is his final season


It has seemed like this was it for a while. Kobe Bryant has been frustrated; he hasn’t been able to produce like he expects — his play has been hard to watch — and the Lakers are a train wreck.

Kobe made it official Sunday via the Players’ Tribune — this is his final season. He did it via a letter called “Dear Basketball.”

You gave a six-year-old boy his Laker dream
And I’ll always love you for it.
But I can’t love you obsessively for much longer.
This season is all I have left to give.
My heart can take the pounding
My mind can handle the grind
But my body knows it’s time to say goodbye.

And that’s OK.
I’m ready to let you go.
I want you to know now
So we both can savor every moment we have left together.
The good and the bad.
We have given each other
All that we have.

It’s not coincidental this was announced a couple days before the Lakers travel to Kobe’s hometown of Philadelphia to face the Sixers. Also remember Kobe is an investor in The Players’ Tribune.

NBA Commissioner Adam Silver quickly released this statement:

“With 17 NBA All-Star selections, an NBA MVP, five NBA championships with the Lakers, two Olympic gold medals and a relentless work ethic, Kobe Bryant is one of the greatest players in the history of our game.  Whether competing in the Finals or hoisting jump shots after midnight in an empty gym, Kobe has an unconditional love for the game.

“I join Kobe’s millions of fans around the world in congratulating him on an outstanding NBA career and thank him for so many thrilling memories.”

Kobe will go down as one of the game’s all-time greats. Few can come close to his resume: Five NBA titles, two NBA Finals MVPs, 15 time All-NBA teams, one MVP, 17 times an All-Star (and the All-Star Game MVP four times). And we could go on and on.

Good on Kobe for doing this now. After 55,000 NBA minutes his body has quit on him, and where his mind is still willing the flesh is clearly weak right now. He has not been able to adapt his game to the changing realities of what he can do.

Kobe has said he doesn’t want a “Derek Jeter Farewell Tour” but that will be the feel from here on out. Expect some special recognition at the All-Star Game in Toronto.

Bulls’ Dunleavy to see specialist after suffering setback with back injury

Mike Dunleavy, Joakim Noah
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CHICAGO—Over the past few weeks, Bulls forward Mike Dunleavy has seemed to be making progress in his back rehab. Dunleavy underwent back surgery shortly before the start of training camp and was initially given a timeline of 8-10 weeks. Recently, he’s been increasing his workload, and he traveled with the team on their recent west coast road trip.

However, his recovery may have hit a snag.

“Mike is going to see a doctor again tomorrow and then we should have a better update after that,” Bulls coach Fred Hoiberg said after practice on Sunday. “He had a little bit of soreness. But we’ll have more on that tomorrow.”

An update to Dunleavy’s status is coming, but given Dunleavy’s age (35) and the frequency of back injuries to reoccur, this news certainly isn’t encouraging. Between Tony Snell and Doug McDermott, the Bulls have struggled at both ends of the floor on the wing. Getting Dunleavy back, whenever that happens, will be a huge help. But nobody knows when that will be.

Stan Van Gundy calls out Andre Drummond’s effort after loss to Thunder

Andre Drummond
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After a promising start to the season, the Pistons have lost three of their last four games and seven of their last 10. And although he’s been outstanding for most of the season, Andre Drummond has not been above receiving criticism from Stan Van Gundy. The coach called out Drummond’s effort on Friday night after a loss to the Thunder.

Via Sportando:

“I didn’t think he brought much energy to the Milwaukee game, and I didn’t think he brought much energy tonight,” Van Gundy said of the two beatings the Pistons received this week. “Why that is, I don’t know. But we need a lot more from him than we got tonight.”

Calling out your best player in the media is bold, but Van Gundy has enough of a track record and a reputation, going back to his days in Orlando with Dwight Howard, that he can get away with it. It also sends a message to the entire team that Van Gundy isn’t going to hold his star to a different standard than the rest of the team.

Despite a couple of poor performances, Drummond is having a career year, leading the league in rebounding at 17.1 per game while also averaging 17.9 points.