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.”

Kevin Durant no fan of one-and-done, says he would have come straight to NBA

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With the money funneled to future NBA players through agents in the spotlight thanks to a FBI investigation (one that doesn’t even get into the money from boosters and shoe companies), the one-and-done rule the NBA has for players sending them to college for a semester of cakewalk classes one year has come back in the spotlight.

The league and players’ union are discussing changing the rule — with some input from the NCAA. If they want Kevin Durant‘s advice, scrap the whole thing — he would have come straight to the NBA if he could have.

“You want these players to go out there and play on the biggest stage. The Final Four is one of the biggest sporting events in the world, in sports, and they don’t get a dime for it. I don’t think it’s right

“If they want to come out of high school, it should be on them. You know what I mean? You can’t control everything. So if they feel as though they’re ready, that’s on them. They want to make a decision on their life, that’s on them. If they don’t get drafted, it’s on them. You can try to control it, but you’re still not really doing anything.”

Would Durant have come out from high school rather than spend a season at Texas?

“Yeah, probably. I needed the money.”

The NBA is discussing changes, and they want to see the recommendations from Condoleezza Rice’s NCAA commission. But the league’s owners are not all on the same page.

“In terms of the NBA, we’re conflicted, to be honest…” NBA Commissioner Adam Silver said All-Star weekend. “And from a league standpoint, on one hand, we think we have a better draft when we’ve had an opportunity to see these young players play an elite level before they come into the NBA.

“On the other hand, I think the question for the league is, in terms of their ultimate success, are we better off intersecting with them a little bit younger? Are we better off bringing them into the league when they’re 18 using our G League as it was designed to be as a Development League and getting them minutes on the court there? And there is also recognition that for some of these elite players, there is no question that they can perform in the NBA at 18 years old.”

There seems to be some momentum toward a “baseball rule” compromise — players can come to the NBA straight out of high school, but if they go to college they have to stay for at least two years. Unlike the last time high schoolers were rushing into the NBA, most teams are far better prepared to develop young players and be patient with them. There will still be busts — there are even with guys who spent years in college — but teams are in better positions to make it work.

The other thing I would want to see: If a player signs with an agent out of high school, does not get drafted, give him the chance to go to college still. Some young men are going to get terrible advice (from family, AAU coaches, friends, a whole lot of people) and they deserve a chance to choose a better path.

Report: Hawks near buyout with Ersan Ilyasova; Bucks, Raptors interested

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This is about as big a surprise as my wife crying during “This Is Us,” but it sounds like it’s about to go down.

The Hawks and Ersan Ilyasova are close to a buyout, reports Michael Cunningham at the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.

The Hawks and forward Ersan Ilyasova tentatively agreed to a buyout of the remainder of his contract, according to a person familiar with the negotiations. Once Ilyasova accepts a buyout and clears waivers, as expected, he will be free to sign with any other team for the rest of the season.

Ilyasova’s contract expires at the end of the season and he is eligible to become a free agent in the summer. Earlier this month, Ilyasova invoked his right to reject the trade offers the Hawks presented to him.

Where might he land on the buyout market?

A lot of teams could use a 6’10” guy who can space the floor as a shooter. Ilyasova signed a one-year, $6 million contract with the Hawks this season. He’s averaged 10.9 points per game, shooting 35.9 percent from three this season, and missed some time with a shoulder injury.

Ilyasova is solid as a spot-up guy but is more dangerous as a screen setter where he can pop out and space the floor, or roll and use his size inside. He’s also good at cutting and working off the ball, plus will get a team a few offensive rebounds. He’s not a game changer, but in certain matchups, he could help teams a lot.

Report: Warriors, Timberwolves, Thunder interested in Joakim Noah if he is bought out by Knicks

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Hand me the salt shaker, I’m going to need some extra for this rumor.

My skepticism aside, let’s pass this rumor along: If Joakim Noah can reach a buyout with the Knicks, at least three playoff-bound teams have interest in him, according to Frank Isola of the New York Daily News.

According to league sources, several playoff-bound teams are closely monitoring Noah’s situation in New York and would push to sign him if Noah becomes a free agent.

The Warriors, Timberwolves and Thunder are three such teams that believe Noah, who turns 33 on Sunday, could bolster their respective rosters for the postseason.

A few thoughts.

First, I don’t question that the well-connected Isola got this from a reputable source.

My question is who leaked it? Or, better yet, who benefits from leaking it? That would be the Knicks — they want Noah to agree to a low enough buyout number that it’s a real benefit to them. The idea that playoff teams — and the leading title contender at that — interested in Noah’s services helps the Knicks make a case that he has good options where he gets on the court if he agrees to the buyout terms. Leaking this is a way to ramp up a little public pressure.

That doesn’t mean it’s not true, either. It’s not hard to picture these teams having interest: Tom Thibodeau loves bringing back former players, and both the Warriors (who started JaVale McGee Thursday) and Thunder could use help on the front line. Do any of them think Noah can provide that help at this point? He has been a shell of his former self in recent years. Would those teams actually sign Noah? Who knows, and for the Knicks they don’t care.

Noah is owed $36.5 million for the two seasons after this one, which is why trading him is next to impossible. In a somewhat similar situation in Atlanta Dikembe Mutombo took about $10 million off his salary in a buyout, would Noah do that to get on a contender? That’s what the Knicks are hoping.

Lonzo Ball on college basketball: ‘Everybody knows everybody’s getting paid. Might as well make it legal’

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The logs of payment by Andy Miller’s former agency to high school and college basketball players leaked today.

That has sparked discussions about the entire system, and Lakers rookie Lonzo Ball has a thought.

Tania Ganguli of the Los Angeles Times:

Simply, I don’t believe Ball about not getting extra compensation at UCLA. That sounds like he caught himself going further then he wanted and attempting to backtrack.

I can see why Ball wouldn’t want to admit getting extra benefits. He still knows people at UCLA, and an NCAA inquiry based on his comments could hurt them – and his reputation at UCLA.

But NBA players should be outspoken on this issue. They have the power to apply pressure on the NCAA’s cartel system, in which schools collude to limit compensation to athletes. As long as that system remains, college players lose out, getting only under-the-table scraps, while coaches and administrators hoard the major money.

Good for Ball for pointing out the farce. It’s easy to stop caring once players reach the NBA and gets rich, but NBA players are uniquely equipped to shine a light on the NCAA’s problems.