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

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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.”

Stan Van Gundy backs off feud with ESPN ahead of televised Pistons game

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Pistons president/coach Stan Van Gundy said he wouldn’t give ESPN its usual access – a private pre-game meeting and an in-game interview – in the aftermath of ESPN publishing LaVar Ball’s negative comments about Lakers coach Luke Walton.

The first test of Van Gundy’s new policy comes with today’s Pistons-Wizards game on ESPN… and Van Gundy is mostly backing down.

Van Gundy, via Rod Beard of The Detroit News:

“I got an email from Rick Carlisle of the coaches association and they want me to cooperate, so my whole idea was to boycott the thing in support of coaches,” Van Gundy said. “If the coaches don’t want that, then it would be a selfish thing, sort of a grandstanding thing.”

“I’m certainly not looking to do extra stuff with ESPN.com when those guys call and want to do things,” Van Gundy said. “They want to put themselves out there as a journalistic enterprise — they’re clearly not. They don’t have any journalistic standards. I have no obligation to do anything extra.”

Many media members have quoted Ball on a variety of issues. Coaches threw a fit over this one because they’re sensitive to coaches being criticized. It wasn’t about journalistic ethics or the source. Van Gundy and other coaches simply didn’t like Ball’s conclusion.

I’m so glad Van Gundy is no longer grandstanding. [extreme sarcasm]

He’s not obligated to speak with ESPN reporters, but when Van Gundy rails on journalistic standards as cover for disagreeing with the opinion a journalist published, he sounds a lot like the guy he loves to criticize.

Pistons’ Jon Leuer to undergo season-ending surgery

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Jon Leuer‘s ankles survived this.

But apparently they’re not invincible.

Rod Beard of The Detroit News:

After suffering a sprained ankle on Oct. 31, the symptoms worsened, as an exam revealed bone fragments and other issues. Leuer has missed the last 35 games and has decided to have season-ending ankle surgery, he told The Detroit News on Friday.

Leuer, 28, has scheduled the procedure to remove bone fragments for next Friday and will have a four-month rehabilitation process.

The Pistons have applied to the NBA for a disabled-player exception

The Pistons have been without Leuer for a while, and they’ve done fine without him. Anthony Tolliver is a capable backup stretch four, and Henry Ellenson adds even more insurance there. Detroit misses Leuer as a stretch center, providing a different style behind Andre Drummond, but Eric Moreland and Boban Marjanovic have at least decently handled those reserve minutes.

The bigger issue: The Pistons are paying Leuer $10,497,319 this season and owe him $19,510,724 over the next two years and don’t miss him that much. He’s a luxury they don’t need and maybe can’t afford.

Perhaps, they’ll deal him before the trade deadline, as they look to upgrade the roster for a playoff run. Detroit could send Leuer and a draft pick or young player (Stanley Johnson) for a better player on a more favorable contract. How about Leuer and a first-round pick to the Bulls for Nikola Mirotic?

A disabled-player exception (DPE) would be worth $5,248,660, half Leuer’s salary. It could be used to sign a free agent for the rest of the season or trade for a player in the final year of his contract.

But the NBA grants a DPE only if a league-appointed physician rules the player is “substantially more likely than not” to be unable to play through June 15. The reported timeline would have Leuer back in May.

Still, the league tends to be lax with giving out DPEs. Detroit has a chance to get one.

The Pistons are just $2,745,417 below the luxury-tax line. So, they’re unlikely to use a full Leuer DPE to acquire another player (and would still need to clear a roster spot). But it could be helpful in facilitating a bigger trade.

PBT Podcast: All-Star starters mock draft, picking reserves

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The votes are in, and LeBron James and Stephen Curry are your All-Star captains.

For the first time in NBA All-Star history, that means they are picking their own teams, playground style, first from the pool of starters, then the pool of reserves. Kurt Helin and Dan Feldman of NBC Sports take on the roles of LeBron and Curry and pick their All-Star starters, from James Harden through Kyrie Irving.

Then the pair gets into who should be the All-Star Game reserves — and choosing among the Western Conference guards is brutal. Do they leave out Damian Lillard? Lou Williams? Klay Thompson? And that’s not even getting into Paul George being a bubble All-Star in a deep West.

Kurt and Dan break it all down, plus talk some Kemba Walker trade scenarios.

As always, you can check out the podcast below, listen and subscribe via iTunes at ApplePodcasts.com/PBTonNBC, subscribe via the fantastic Stitcher app, check us out on Google play, or check out the NBC Sports Podcast homepage and archive at Art19.

Aaron Gordon forgoes desperation attempt to win, sinks halfcourt shot instead (video)

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The Magic were in dire straights near the end of their game against the Cavaliers last night. Orlando trailed 104-103 with 0.2 seconds and a jump ball to be tossed at center court. By rule, the Magic didn’t have time to catch-and-shoot, let alone recover the jump ball then shoot. Aaron Gordon had to tip the jump ball through the hoop from halfcourt – nearly impossible, but technically possible.

Instead, Gordon grabbed the jump ball – a violation – then sank a halfcourt shot. What an ironic end.

Cleveland then harmlessly inbounded the ball to seal the win.