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.”

LeBron James, do you owe Cleveland anything? “I don’t owe anybody anything”

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It will be the biggest off-court topic of the NBA season: Will LeBron James stay with the Cavaliers after this season?

Right now, LeBron doesn’t know the answer to that question for sure. I’m sure he has ideas, but he wisely leaves all his options open, then can make a call next summer when the time comes.

When that time does come, does he owe his hometown Cleveland anything? LeBron answered that question in the latest issue of GQ, and he answered with an emphatic no.

“LeBron James owes nobody anything. Nobody,” he said. “When my mother told me I don’t owe her anything, from that point in time, I don’t owe anybody anything. But what I will give to the city of Cleveland is passion, commitment, and inspiration. As long as I put that jersey on, that’s what I represent. That’s why I’m there — to inspire that city. But I don’t owe anybody anything.”

That’s not what Cavs fans may want to hear, but it’s also spot on. LeBron has given this franchise everything he has, he has brought them the first title the team has had in 50 years, and nobody sane can question his passion or how hard he plays.

LeBron could well get to his eighth straight NBA Finals, feel he’s on a team that can push the Warriors, then look at his options — the Lakers and a young core that doesn’t defend well, for example — and think maybe he’s best where he’s at. Perhaps he teams up with another star in Los Angeles or somewhere else. If LeBron called up 28 teams and said “I want to come there” those teams would make whatever moves they needed to for the deal to happen. (I say 28 because the Warriors wouldn’t, and even they’d think about it.)

LeBron has the leverage, and he is always a guy who keeps his options open. He will be asked about his future in every road stop, he will dodge the questions, and we’ll try to read the tea leaves, but as of right now LeBron doesn’t know for sure what LeBron will do next summer. Neither do we.

Report: Final season of LaMarcus Aldridge’s contract extension just $7 million guaranteed

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Spurs big LaMarcus Aldridge, who will earn $21,461,010 this season, agreed to exercise his $22,347,015 player option for 2018-19 in conjunction with signing a two-year, $50 million contract extension.

As usual, the devil is in the details.

Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN:

Guaranteeing Aldridge just $7 million in 2020-21, when he’ll be 35, is obviously to San Antonio’s advantage relative to fully guaranteeing his extension. But it sets up an uneasy choice for the Spurs. Their three options for Aldridge will be:

  • Pay him $24 million in 2020-21 to play for them
  • Pay him $7 million in 2020-21 not to play for them
  • Pay him $2,333,333 in each 2020-21, 2021-22 and 2022-23 not to play for them

There’s a solid chance that none of those are appealing.

Some speculated San Antonio extended Aldridge to facilitate a trade, removing uncertainty stemming from Aldridge’s player option. Though the Spurs now can’t trade him before the deadline, they could move him in the offseason.

But that 15% trade kicker is a significant inhibitor. His salary is already lofty for his age. An increase would only dissuade teams.

The simplest explanation is probably correct: The Spurs value the stability of their core, no matter how old it is, over flexibility.

Thunder give P.J. Dozier No. 35, Kevin Durant’s old number

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The Thunder signed P.J. Dozier, who went undrafted out of South Carolina, to a seemingly innocuous two-way contract.

Then, they let him pick No. 35 – previously worn by Kevin Durant.

Erik Horne of The Oklahoman:

Honoring Reggie Lewis seems like a valid reason for Dozier, who probably didn’t want to get swept into what has become a minor controversy.

Personally, I don’t mind a player wearing any unretired number. Even numbers that will clearly be retired can be fair game until the jersey goes into the rafters. This is a non-issue to me.

But people care about this stuff. Many see it as a sign of disrespect to Durant, who left Oklahoma City on bad terms when signing with the Warriors. The Thunder lose deniability about not caring, considering they told Dion Waiters he couldn’t wear No. 13, which was previously worn by James Harden.

Will Oklahoma City eventually retire Durant’s No. 35? He spent a fantastic eight years there (and another season with the Seattle SuperSonics before they moved). Time will ease the bitterness of his exit. It’s certainly possible he’s honored that way.

In the meantime, let Dozier wear No. 35 in peace. It should have nothing to do with Durant.

Cornrowed Joel Embiid calls minute limit f—ing BS

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76ers center Joel Embiid made clear yesterday he disliked the minute restriction placed on him, which Philadelphia coach Brett Brown said would keep Embiid below 20 minutes per game.

Today, sporting a new hairstyle, Embiid upped the rhetoric.

Embiid, via Jessica Camerato of NBC Sports Philadelphia:

“That’s f—ing BS,” he said after practice Tuesday. “I wish I was playing more minutes. I think I’m ready for more than I don’t know whatever number they have.”

“I think the concept of minute restrictions is kind of complicated,” Embiid said. “I don’t think there should ever be minute restrictions. I think it should always be about how my body feels and how it’s reacting.”

“They know that I’m frustrated, but once again you’ve got to trust the doctors,” Embiid said. “They care about me. It’s all about the long-term view.”

“Like I always say,” he said, “you’ve got to trust the process.”

We’ve been here before – an injury-prone Philadelphia center rocking cornrows (at least Embiid went all the way with them) and Embiid lashing out at his minute limit.

Embiid is incredibly competitive, and he can’t just turn it off. It’s an attribute that contributes to his on-court excellence.

Embiid appears to have just enough trust-the-process perspective here, but Brown will also likely have his hands full keeping Embiid from getting too frustrated throughout the season.

At least Embiid has his contract extension and isn’t restless to get on the court and earn his big payday.